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Saturday, 31 January 2015

Saturday, January 31, 2015 Posted by Jake 6 comments Labels: , , , , , ,
2,400 or so years ago an ancient Greek, possibly the philosopher Socrates, said:

"Our youth now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for their elders and love chatter in place of exercise; they no longer rise when elders enter the room; they contradict their parents, chatter before company; gobble up their food and tyrannize their teachers."

2,400 or so years later another figure from the past, Michael Gove MP formerly Secretary of State for Education, was still searching for bright ideas to get the young to do the right thing. Gove encouraged teachers to discipline wayward youths by getting them:

"to do extra work, or to repeat unsatisfactory work; to write lines, or an extra essay...picking up litter, or washing graffiti off a wall, tidying a classroom, clearing up the dining hall."

People often complain about the youth of today, imagining things were better when they were young. The evidence of the last few millennia suggest young people have always been really annoying.

However, there is one way today's young have clearly fallen behind earlier generations of youngsters. According to the British Election Study, it is only since 1997 that young people really got out of the habit of voting.

Thursday, 29 January 2015

Thursday, January 29, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Tax crackdown on the rich: HMRC Affluent Unit nets an extra £137m
HMRC's Affluent Unit covering UK residents on annual incomes over £150,000 - or wealth over £1m - raised £137.2m in tax, up from £85.7m in 2013. The Affluent Unit, set up in 2011, doubled in size in 2013 with the recruitment of an additional 100 tax inspectors. About 500,000 UK residents fall into its remit. Also, HMRC's ability to investigate people has been made easier by a computer system called Connect. Costing £45m, Connect was launched in the summer of 2010 and designed by the defence contractor BAE Systems. The computer system collects data on people from multiple sources, including banks, local councils, and even social media. However, tax expert Richard Murphy, from Tax Research, said: "HMRC is supposed to collect £167bn of income tax this year, of which at least a quarter will be from the top 1% of income earners... In that case, to collect just £127m as a result of investigations into this group when the official tax gap is £35bn suggests that much less attention is given to them than any other group." He added: "The investigation success rate is way below anything that could be expected given that we know tax avoidance is mainly undertaken by the wealthiest... If these statistics prove anything it is that HMRC need many more resources to collect tax from those most likely to owe it." BBC NEWS

Benefits cuts mean those with children in the lowest 10% of earners lose £1,223 a year on average
Coalition changes to taxes and benefits have cost the average UK household £489 a year. Some households have lost a lot more than this, but others have gained from the changes the coalition has introduced, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Low-income working-age households have been hit hardest, losing the most as a percentage of their income. Those with children in the lowest 10% of earners lost £1,223 on average. The richest 10% of households with children lost £5,350 a year. Middle-income working-age households without children have gained the most. Pensioners were "relatively unaffected" on average, as their gains from the "triple lock" on the state pension were largely offset by a hike in VAT. James Browne, a senior research economist at IFS and co-author of the report said: "Increases in the tax-free personal allowance have played an important role in protecting middle-income working-age households meaning that those without children have actually gained overall." By household alone, the poorest households lost around 4% of their incomes, compared with around 3.5% for the next poorest tenth, between 2.5% and zero for middle-income households and a loss of about 2.5% for the richest. The hardest-hit region was greater London, where households lost an average £1,042, followed by south east England, the West Midlands and north west England. BBC NEWS

Apple’s global tax dodging: it made sales of AUS$6 billion in Australia last year, paid just AUS$80.3 million in tax: a tax rate of 0.01%
Apple has been in the spotlight over its taxes in Australia, after an investigation by Fairfax Media last year showed it had shifted AUS$8.9 billion in untaxed profits from its Australian operations to Ireland in the past decade. Apple's Australian entity describes itself as a company that markets products and sells digital software and services.  It is controlled by Irish holding company Apple Operations International. While tax is calculated as a proportion of profit, not revenue, multinational companies including Apple have been criticised for booking revenue offshore, in low-taxing places like Ireland or Singapore, to minimise their reportable profit and therefore their taxes in places like Australia. The company's local revenue was down slightly from AUS$6.1 billion a year earlier, when it paid just AUS$36.4 million in tax. It is one of the companies expected to be hauled in front of a Senate inquiry into corporate tax avoidance, with hearings due to start as soon as March. It follows efforts by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to clamp down on profit shifting, as governments around the world become increasingly desperate to shore up revenue. This week Apple's fiscal first-quarter profit hit a record $US18 billion, on sales of $US74.6 billion. SYDNEY MORNING HERALD

€1.1 trillion Eurozone quantitative easing helps the rich only, warns Soros
Speaking at a dinner at the World Economic Forum in Davos, the 84-year-old billionaire investor George Soros, who was born in Hungary, voiced concerns that an "excessive reliance on monetary policy tends to enrich the owners of property and at the same time will not relieve the downward pressure on wages." But he emphasised that he expected the European Central Bank (ECB) policy to drive economic growth in the European Union. He also said there was another powerful way of boosting the Eurozone economy. "There is one large untapped source of triple-A credit, and that is the European Union itself - that has practically no debt, but it has taxing power," he said, urging the EU to spend more on financing infrastructure projects, such as energy pipelines, electricity networks and even roads. BBC NEWS

Monday, 26 January 2015

Monday, January 26, 2015 Posted by Hari 2 comments Labels: , , , , ,
We're told we'd need to find an extra £5bn every year to be able to afford an NHS that maintains standards, free at the point of delivery.

We're told it's only possible if we allow the private sector to take on more of our healthcare delivery.

We're told that other countries, including the progressive lefty ones, use a mix of public and private to be able to afford modern healthcare.

But a look at the data from other countries shows...
  • Our system is the most efficient and cost effective.
  • We’re spending less than almost everyone else – i.e. not enough.
  • If we spent more, it should be on the system that is the most efficient and cost effective. Ours.

First, here’s the graph from a report by NHS England, showing how funding is falling behind spending requirements.



Now take a look at the costs, per head, of all the OECD countries. You’ll see that every nation has a mix of public and private provision, to varying degrees. What it shows is that the UK spends less than almost any nation comparable to ours.

  
What else does it tell us? If we had almost any of the other comparable nations’ public-private mix, we’d be spending more than that £5bn extra already. 
  • Any other system we choose that costs approximately $125/head (=£83/head) more than ours, will end up costing us more than that £5bn the NHS needs.
  • 60m people in the UK
  • 60m X £83 = £5bn

Let’s now dig a little deeper into the performance of each country: quality, accessibility, efficiency, and results. The Commonwealth Fund, a healthcare think tank based in the US, ranks a range of comparable countries, by different criteria. The UK came top in most, and overall.

You’ll note that the UK comes almost bottom in one, very important criteria: Healthy Lives.

Compared to these other nations, our overall mortality rates, infant mortality, and life expectancy figures are indeed among the worst. But isn’t that because we’re spending less than the others, rather than because we don’t have enough private provision?

There is no doubt one big advocate for spending that extra £83 per head: the private healthcare companies and their friends in government, on condition none of it is spent on the NHS.

Looking forward, our healthcare system will need to find extra billions not just for one year, but for every year due to ageing populations and more expensive yet better treatments. But so will every other nation, whatever their mix of public-private delivery.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Sunday, January 25, 2015 Posted by Jake No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Some newspapers claim to be able to swing their readers like bats beating carpets. Figures from Ipsos-Mori, the polling organisation, show a clear difference in the swing magnitude between the various papers' readerships.
While the Sun and the Daily Star have the greatest swings, they also have the lowest voter turnouts. 
The graphs below show Sun readers appear to have shifted from Labour to Tory. The Daily Star's swing seems to be less due to readers shifting from Labour to Tory than to readers shifting from Labour to any party other than Tory.

Friday, 23 January 2015

Friday, January 23, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , ,
Fee and KJ pitch Chris with a brilliant idea it seems no one's thought about...

SOURCE GUARDIAN: NHS will need an extra £65bn by 2030, say analysts
The Health Foundation analysis identifies the sum as the extra amount of Treasury funding the NHS will need by then because it is unlikely to meet unrealistically optimistic productivity targets. It says the NHS will need its budget to rise by 2.9% a year above inflation each year between 2015-16 and 2030-31 if it is to maintain the standard of services and avoid having to ration access to treatment. That 2.9% is higher than the expected 2.3% annual rise over that period in gross domestic product, which means the government will have to boost NHS spending faster than the economy is growing. The £65bn will also be needed because the health service is likely to make only 1.5% annual gains in productivity and not the 2% and 3% envisaged in the Five Year Forward View, NHS England’s recent blueprint for securing the service’s uncertain future. The Health Foundation wants whoever forms the next government to make reaching “a public and political consensus” on the NHS’s long-term funding needs a priority, and also to give it further additional money from April as a “transformation fund”, so new ways of delivering healthcare can be created.


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Thursday, 22 January 2015

Thursday, January 22, 2015 Posted by Jake No comments Labels:
Firms benefiting from lower oil price should raise wages, says Cameron 
A glut in global oil supplies has caused Brent crude prices to more than halve in little more than six months. Britain's political parties are competing to try to show they can best help voters benefit from the fall, as a national election looms in May. "I want to see companies' success passed through in terms of wage increases," he was quoted as saying by the BBC on Saturday. "It has to be done in a way that's affordable, and in a way that companies can continue to grow. We need to see productivity increase." Cheaper oil has handed Cameron and his ruling Conservative Party a political gift ahead of the election by helping to lower prices for everything from petrol to food and thereby blunting rival Labour's attack over a "cost of living crisis". Sliding oil prices have driven down inflation, so that wages are finally rising faster than prices in the UK, but the main opposition Labour Party argues that, in real terms, workers are worse off now than they were five years ago. REUTERS

Jobcentre ‘hit squads’ are tricking claimants into failing tests and losing benefits, says former official
The written statement, by a former jobcentre official, John Longden, says frontline staff were ordered to “agitate and inconvenience” customers so they fell foul of the rules, enabling staff to stop their benefits payments. Longden claims that staff used several tricks to set up claimants. On several occasions jobcentre advisers purposefully booked job appointments without informing the claimant, ensuring they could be sanctioned when they failed to attend. Claimants would be set unreasonable job search targets, referred for jobs for which they were clearly unsuited, or ordered to sign on every day in the hope they would fail in a task, miss an appointment or be late. He added: “Customers were being deliberately treated inappropriately in order to achieve [staff] performance [targets] without regard for natural justice and their welfare.” Staff who failed to meet sanctions targets each month were threatened with disciplinary action. Longden claimed: “Staff were threatened by the cluster manager that their jobs would be taken by other people if they didn’t do what they were told.” Longden’s evidence covers events he says he witnessed at Salford and Rochdale jobcentres between 2011 and 2013. The PCS union, which represents jobcentre staff, said the evidence chimed with its own straw poll of members, which found almost two-thirds had experienced pressure to refer claimants for a sanction inappropriately, while more than a third had been placed on a formal performance improvement plan for not making enough referrals. A sanction involves the stopping of claimants’ benefit payments for at least four weeks – equivalent to almost £300 – as a penalty for breach of benefit rules and conditions, typically failure to look for work or attend jobcentre appointments. Ministers introduced tighter rules for claiming benefits in October 2012, saying sanctions were a “last resort” that would encourage claimants to “engage” with jobcentres. However, this evidence, being collected by the Commons work and pensions select committee, which is investigating benefit sanctions policy, seems to show that jobcentres are increasingly neglecting to help claimants find jobs and are instead focusing on finding ways to impose financial penalties on them. GUARDIAN

Amazon tax dodge clawback? European Commission investigates online retailer's special tax deal with Luxembourg
Brussels alleges that Amazon’s European hub was founded on favourable and selective tax treatment that amounts to an illicit state subsidy, which may need to be clawed back. The cap on income taxable in Luxembourg is less than 1 per cent — approximately €75m in 2013 on Amazon operating company turnover of around €13.6bn. The investigation has political significance because Amazon’s tax deal was negotiated in 2003 while Jean-Claude Juncker, the commission president, was serving as Luxembourg’s premier. It follows thousands of pages of leaks that have piled pressure on Mr Juncker by showing how other multinationals operating in the Grand Duchy pay negligible tax. Other deals under investigation include Ireland’s arrangements with Apple and Luxembourg’s clearance of structures used by Fiat, and Holland’s approval of Starbucks’ tax base. The commission is empowered to order countries to recoup any illegal aid stretching back up to 10 years. It is aiming to conclude some of its investigations in the Spring. FINANCIAL TIMES

Fine supermarkets if they have unfairly squeezed milk suppliers, say MPs
The environment and rural affairs select committee said ministers must bring forward measures before the general election to give more powers to Christine Tacon, the groceries code adjudicator, a position that was created after years of investigations into the big supermarkets using their muscle to squeeze farming suppliers. The MPs want the watchdog to be able to punish the big retailers if they are found to have misused their market muscle to overly depress prices to dairy farmers. This could be done quickly using parliamentary procedures and would not require new legislation. Large numbers of smaller dairy farmers in particular are unable to meet the costs of milk production after prices plummeted from nearly 34p a litre a year ago to as low as 20p a litre. Dairy farmers have been hurt by increasing volatility on the international markets for milk products, including fresh and frozen milk, cheese, dried milk, cultured milk and other products. This has been driven bumper production in key areas, such as New Zealand, flooding the market while prices have also taken a hit from the Russian trade ban and faltering demand in China as the rate of economic growth there has stuttered. GUARDIAN

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Sunday, January 18, 2015 Posted by Jake 3 comments Labels: , , , , , ,

In a bakery not far away there was a baker, who treated his customers extremely unequally. To some he gave plain buns, others spiced buns with candied fruit, and to others iced buns. He said the bankers worked harder than the nurses, and so deserved the icing. And the accountants were cleverer than the teachers but didn't work as hard as the bankers, so they deserved the candied fruit buns. Iced buns are much better than plain buns, inequality was very great.

One day the icing machine crashed, due to a leak in the water pipes leading it to flood. With no icing there were no iced buns. The bankers could only get the spiced variety. Now spiced buns are better than plain buns, but less so than iced buns. Inadvertently, inequality was reduced! At least until the icing machine got bailed out.

The Tories are claiming that inequality has reduced since 2010. They are correct. Since the banker induced crash that started in 2007/08 the incomes of the top 20%, as shown by this graph from the ONS, fell more sharply than everyone else. 

As the rewards of the boom years weren't shared with those on low income, like the icing on the buns, they didn't see so much downside on income when the economic machine broke. Thus the Tories can say 'inequality' has fallen.


The standard measure of inequality is the GINI Coefficient, which looks at income but not at wealth. So the Tories are correct: income inequality, GINI, did fall marginally in the years immediately after 2010.


On the other hand, since the banking crash and the policy of QE (Quantitive Easing) asset prices have grown strongly. The BBC provide a 1 minute explanation of what QE is:

 

Those left wing firebrands at the Financial Times provide another useful primer on the effect of QE:


The speaker, Professor John Kay of the London School of Economics, states among other things that the policy of Quantitative Easing is like:

  • “pouring water into a leaking pipe in the hope that some might dribble through"
  • “those who have assets [including home owners & shareholders] benefit in relation to those who don't"


According to a report by Credit Suisse, in 2013-14 household wealth has done extremely well, with a close to 20% increase:


A 20% increase in assets helps those with most assets the most, and those with no assets not at all. In relation to its £325 billion of QE, the Bank of England's report states:

"the total increase in household wealth stemming from the Bank’s £325 billion of asset purchases up to May 2012 of just over £600 billion... In practice, the benefits from these wealth effects will accrue to those households holding most financial assets."

The Office for National Statistics "Total Wealth In Great Britain, 2010-2012" report shows how all wealth (Financial; Property; Physical; Pension) is distributed. You will notice that the bottom 50% have virtually no Financial Assets:



A report by Ed Conway of SkyNews, estimates how much each decile (the '10th' in the graph below is the wealthiest 10% etc) benefited from QE by 2012:Source: Sky/Bank of England/Office for National Statistics

A billionaire hedge-fund manager in the USA, Stanley Druckenmiller, commented about the US policy of Quantitive Easing:

"This is the biggest redistribution of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the rich ever."

So, in answer to the question "has inequality reduced since the Conservative-LibDem government of 2010", the answer is:

Income: Yes, a little bit.  
Wealth: Hell no!

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Thursday, January 15, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Lloyds braced for rage over boss' windfall: Horta-Osorio's £7m pay 'sticks in the throat'
The Portuguese chief executive is set to receive the shares bonanza in the coming weeks, placing the state-backed lender under intense scrutiny ahead of the General Election. Last night campaigners said the huge award would ‘stick in the throat’ for ordinary taxpayers while Labour reiterated its pledge to reintroduce its tax on bankers’ bonuses if it wins power in May. Lord Thurso, Liberal Democrat member of the Treasury Select Committee, perhaps spoke for many when he questioned why bankers’ pay is still so out of kilter with the rest of society. He said: ‘I fail to see why any banker is worth more than the Prime Minister, a top brain surgeon, or the chief of the defence staff running operations in Afghanistan or Iraq... Bankers are paid huge amounts to use other people’s money to make money for themselves.’ Horta-Osorio’s huge pay-out – which is almost 50 times David Cameron’s £142,500 annual salary – stems from a performance-related long term bonus awarded three years ago. Andy Silvester, campaign director at The Taxpayers’ Alliance urged the Government to take a ‘more active role’ in curbing pay at the lender. He said: ‘It will stick in the throat that the boss of a bank which has had many of its fines paid by taxpayers is walking off with a sizeable bonus.’ Mark Garnier, a Conservative member of the Treasury Select Committee, said the award for Horta-Osorio is ‘hard to justify’ despite putting Lloyds on a ‘more stable footing’. He added: ‘I am an enthusiast for free markets but even I am finding it hard to justify these enormous bonuses for people who take no risk with their own money but have everything to gain.’ DAILY MAIL

UK firms use scams to avoid paying minimum wage
Some firms have developed scams to avoid paying the national minimum wage, including charging for uniforms, clocking off cafe workers when there are no customers, and mis-using interns, according to a new report by the TUC. They found that apprentices were most likely to be underpaid, with suggestions that 120,000 were not receiving the proper rate. Other groups at risk of not being paid the proper rate include migrants, domestic workers, interns and temporary agency staff, said the report. Despite improvements to enforcing the statutory rate, new ways of cheating have emerged, said the union organisation. The research found a minority of employers were under-recording workers’ hours, not paying for travel between work sites, or “vanishing” to avoid paying fines, only to reappear under a different name. The adult minimum wage increased from £6.31 an hour to £6.50 last October and a new rate will come into force this October. But ministers are expected to decide before the general election what the new statutory minimum will be. Labour has already pledged to raise the minimum wage to £8 an hour over the course of the next parliament if it wins power in May, while Chancellor George Osborne has suggested it could increase to £7 this year as the economy improves. Paul Kenny, general secretary of the GMB union, said: “There are bucketloads of evidence that an uplift of at least 50p per hour would help the low-paid and start to stimulate the economy and that all the big firms, including the retailers, can afford it... There is no justification for the national minimum wage not keeping up with inflation. The Low Pay Commission should recommend a rate of at least £7 per hour from October 2014 to make up the ground lost since 2006.” GUARDIAN

Fall in life expectancy: are cuts and pressure on NHS to blame for earlier deaths?
Public Health England said it was scrutinising life expectancy trends following an alert from a council in the North-west of England warning it was “likely” that in many parts of the region “older people (over 85) are no longer living longer”. An email from Blackburn with Darwen Council’s director of public health, Dominic Harrison, sent to regional colleagues and to Public Health England, said the council had seen a “sustained reduction” in life expectancy at 85 in its area. Possible explanations for the decline include government cuts to councils’ social care budgets, a lack of capacity in the GP sector or pressure on hospitals, it adds. According to the Office for National Statistics, life expectancy at 85, which is calculated by analysing mortality rates over a three-year period, has fallen among women from 6.81 years in 2009-11 to 6.78 years in 2011-13 – a trend which reflects more dramatic declines in some areas. The number of people in the UK who receive state-funded care in the home or in their community has fallen from around 1.8 million in 2008-09 to 1.3 million in 2012-13, with further reductions of an estimated 5.8 per cent last year, according to figures and a recent survey from the Association of Directors of Adult Social Services. This follows government cuts to council budgets, which led to reductions of £3.5bn in their adult social care spending over the past four years. INDEPENDENT

Ofsted admit league-table school inspections are not reliable
The comment comes from Sean Harford, the watchdog's national director for schools, responding to a critical blog from a head teacher. Some inspectors use data as a "safety net" instead of making a professional judgement, Mr Harford wrote. Head teacher Tom Sherrington, of Highbury Grove School in north London,  had complained of "enormous flaws and absence of proper validity trials" in the current inspection system. In his response, Mr Harford admitted Ofsted does not currently ensure "directly that different inspectors in the school on the same day would give the same judgement". He also agreed "some inspectors and some schools focus too much on a narrow range of data". He said Ofsted trained its inspectors to use data as a "signpost", rather than making it a "pre-determined destination". "But the weakest ones have been guilty of using the published data as a safety net for not making fully-rounded, professional judgements." School leaders have described Mr Harford's comments as a definite shift in tone. Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, welcomed Mr Harford's comments but said he was a sceptical of Ofsted's ability to ensure reliability. He said under the current system, some inspectors had made up their minds before arriving at the school, based on league-table data. "That is a big waste of money and an insult to teachers." BBC NEWS

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

Tuesday, January 13, 2015 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels: , , , , , , , ,

SOURCE GUARDIAN: More than a million working households in England are in fuel poverty 
A study by the right-wing think tank Policy Exchange looking at the 2.3m households in England in fuel poverty found that half of them, around 1.1m households, had someone in work. Fuel poverty has been made worse by rising energy bills and, despite improvements, the housing stock is still highly inefficient, it said. Households in the least energy-efficient properties would have to spend an extra £1,700 a year to heat their homes to a comfortable level. The thinktank said energy efficiency should be viewed as a national infrastructure priority, tapping into the government’s £100bn infrastructure budget over the next five years. Richard Howard, the report’s author, said: “Most people assume that it’s the elderly who are most at risk of not being able to heat their homes. But the facts paint a startling picture. There are over one million working households struggling to afford their energy bills and living in underheated homes... Fuel poverty can severely affect people’s health and also puts a strain on the NHS. It is absolutely critical that the government prioritises support to those households most at risk.”

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Saturday, January 10, 2015 Posted by Jake 1 comment Labels: , , , , , , , ,
The main political parties try desperately to seduce supporters away from UKIP and the SNP. Famous politicians cover up their extensive blemishes, prepare their little speeches, and go out to campaign with all the insincerity of teenage Lotharios collecting kisses. They chase the national flags relentlessly. But they leave undisturbed a far larger untapped reservoir of votes: all the people who don’t vote at all. Why is that?

In the 2010 UK General Election there were seven parties that took more than 250,000 votes. 


These seven were dwarfed by the number who didn't vote at all. The most successful party in 2010, the Conservatives, took just under 11 million votes. About twice this number, 22 million, didn’t vote, comprised of:

Thursday, 8 January 2015

Thursday, January 08, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
New consumer debt reaches seven-year high in UK 
Britons ran up their highest level of new debt in November for nearly seven years, with the month’s borrowing on credit cards, loans and overdrafts hitting more than £1.25bn. More than £980m was taken out in loans and overdrafts during the month, sharply up from the monthly average of £728m over the previous six months. Credit card lending fell to £269m, from £399m in October, but remained above the average for the previous six months. The Bank of England said over the course of three months unsecured lending had grown at its most rapid pace since October 2005, and in November was up 6.9% compared with November 2013. The figures show that at £168bn – more than £5,800 per household – the total outstanding unsecured debt remains some way below the peak reached in September 2008 when UK consumers collectively owed £208bn alongside their mortgages. However, there has been a marked change in behaviour as the economy has recovered: in nearly every month for the four years to September 2012 consumers paid off more than they borrowed, with banks reining in credit limits and restricting loans and overdrafts, but since then the trend has reversed with almost every month seeing increased borrowing. Banks and credit card companies have been jostling for business with offers to attract new customers: loan rates have plummeted while balance transfer deals on credit cards have become increasingly generous. The chief executive of the debt charity StepChange, Mike O’Connor, said the figures “point to a worrying rise in people’s reliance on credit”. He added: “The economy is growing and there is some wage growth but it is very marginal and millions are living on a financial precipice leaving them vulnerable to financial shocks and strains.” GUARDIAN

Fat Cat Tuesday: FTSE 100 bosses will make more by January 6th than most will earn in the whole of 2015
It has been dubbed 'Fat Cat Tuesday' by campaign group the High Pay Centre, which says the huge discrepancy 'highlights the problem of unfair pay in the UK'. The group calculated that the average FTSE 100 chief executive is paid the equivalent of nearly £1,200 an hour based on the average package for blue-chip bosses of £4.72million in 2013. The huge hourly rate even assumes that FTSE bosses work three out of four weekends, work 12 hour days and take less than ten days holiday a year. This compares with the average salary of £27,000 in the UK in 2013, which rose to £27,200 last year. Over the same period the average pay for a FTSE 100 company chief executive rose almost £500,000 to £4.72million, according to shareholder advisory service Manifest. Deborah Hargreaves, director of the High Pay Centre, said: 'For top bosses to rake in more in two days than their staff earn is a year is clearly unfair.' DAILY MAIL

Osborne: 'Let families benefit' from low oil prices
The price of a barrel of oil dropped to below $50, the first time since May 2009. Chancellor George Osborne raised the issue at Cabinet, and the Treasury said it was examining whether any action was needed. All four big UK supermarkets have announced further fuel price cuts, bringing petrol ever closer to £1 a litre. Tesco, Morrisons, Sainsbury's and Asda have reduced prices by 2p a litre on both petrol and diesel. Mr Osborne tweeted that the price of oil was at its lowest in five years and added: "Vital this is passed on to families at petrol pumps, through utility bills and air fares." Last year, Liberal Democrat Chief Secretary to the Treasury Danny Alexander wrote to all the main fuel suppliers and distributors, calling on them to pass on the benefit of falling prices as soon as possible. Mr Alexander told ITV News that falling oil prices are a "benefit to most of the UK economy" provided that the savings are passed on "at the pumps, in the cost of holidays and in the cost of heating homes". He also said more support was needed for the North Sea oil and gas sector which, as the biggest industrial investor in the UK, is "adversely affected" by falling prices. "So, that is why we are also putting in place a more beneficial tax environment," he added. BBC NEWS

Banks will be paying out on PPI 'for years to come' as 4,000 complaints pour into ombudsman every WEEK
The Financial Ombudsman Service said it still receives more than 4,000 PPI complaints every week, bringing the total number of cases received over the last few years to roughly 1.25million. In 2012, at the height of the PPI mis-selling scandal, the FOS was seeing 12,000 new cases reaching their desks each week. In recent months, around 55 per cent of PPI-related complaints have been upheld in consumers' favour, the FOS added. In recent years, the FOS has taken on over 2,000 new staff to deal with increasing numbers of disputes between financial companies and their customers. Over 87 per cent of the work currently undertaken by the FOS relates to PPI cases. Last year, the Financial Conduct Authority announced that the banking industry had paid out approximately £16billion in three years of the £22billion they had set aside to deal with the consumer scandal. DAILY MAIL

Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Tuesday, January 06, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , ,


FTSE 100 Chief Executives are paid an average £4.72 million, equivalent to hourly pay of nearly £1,200. That means that before the first week of January is over, top bosses will have made more money than the average UK worker earns in an entire year. Yet the evidence shows that there is no link between their high levels of pay and their performance.

Our brave news anchors give Sir Felix Gross a grilling with the facts. But is he listening?!

Thursday, 1 January 2015

Thursday, January 01, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:

Welcome to our eye-watering compilation of some of the rippingest rip-offs of 2014

January
RBS payouts to UK staff expected to total £500m despite an £8bn loss
The bank is now expected to show an £8bn loss after announcing that mis-selling scandals and legal bills in the US were forcing it to take a £3bn hit. Analysts at Credit Suisse calculated the bank's total losses since the 2008 bailout would reach £43bn, almost as much as the £45bn pumped in by taxpayers to buy shares in RBS to stop it collapsing. The top management team have waived their bonuses for 2013 but other staff will expect to receive payouts, including Rory Cullinan, who is to run the new bad bank being set up by RBS. GUARDIAN

Lord Browne: fracking will not reduce UK gas prices
Fracking is not going to reduce gas prices in the UK, according to Lord Browne. He is the chairman of leading fracking company Cuadrilla, a leading government adviser, and one of the most powerful energy figures in Britain. He contradicts claims by Cameron and Osborne that shale gas exploration could help curb soaring energy bills. In August, Cameron said: "If we don't back this technology, we will miss a massive opportunity to help families with their bills … fracking has real potential to drive energy bills down." In July, Osborne said: "This a real chance to get cheaper energy for Britain … a major new energy source that can reduce energy bills." But Browne said: "I don't know what the contribution of shale gas will be to the energy mix of the UK. We need to drill probably 10-12 wells and test them and it needs to be done as quickly as possible... We are part of a well-connected European gas market and, unless it is a gigantic amount of gas, it is not going to have material impact on price." Browne also added to the government's ongoing troubles by labelling nuclear power as "very, very expensive indeed" and observing that giving more state subsidies to oil and gas than to renewable energy is "like running both the heating and the air conditioning at the same time". GUARDIAN

February
Government accused of suppressing the damning report that its flagship welfare reforms are forcing ever more people to turn to food banks
The report was finally published by the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs today morning amid suggestions that it had been “slipped out” while the floods were still in the news. It concluded that there was “growing demand” for emergency food because of increased need. This directly contradicts the position of Work and Pensions minister Lord Freud, who claimed last summer that the expansion of charities such as The Trussell Trust had driven the demand. INDEPENDENT

HomeServe hit with record £30.6m fine for duping families into buying expensive insurance for broken boilers and blocked drains
The Financial Services Authority issued the penalty after it found HomeServe had ‘serious, systemic and long running failings, extending across many key aspects of its business’. The fine comes on top of some £16.8million HomeServe is paying in refunds to thousands of wronged customers who took out the policies because of misleading information and hard sell tactics. The company, which styles itself as the UK’s ‘fifth emergency service’ used to have three million customers in this country, holding 7.5million policies. However this began falling significantly after it cut its sales team in the wake of the investigation. It had been expected that customer numbers would bottom out at 2million. DAILY MAIL

More than one million workers face the axe in 'largest public sector cull for 50 years' 
As many as two in every five public sector workers could face losing their job over the next five years if the government goes ahead with its planned cuts. However because the government has ringfenced cuts to the NHS and schools, the rest of the workforce, in areas such as policing, defence and public administration, faces an even higher ratio of job cuts. The cuts would dwarf cuts of 350,000 seen in the early 1990s. The increase of 600,000 in the public sector seen under the Labour governments of the first decade of this century would be more than reversed. The impact of the decline in public sector employment will vary in different parts of the country, and dramatically changing the nature of the UK labour market. The percentage of workforce in the public sector is largest in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and the North East and smallest in London, the West Midlands and the South East. DAILY MAIL

Office for National Statistics confirms that wage slump since 2010 is the greatest since records began in 1964
Average wages have fallen by 2.2 per cent a year since the start of 2010, after inflation is taken into account - meaning that the standard of living has been consistently falling. Household finances have been squeezed by subdued wage rises or even pay freezes at a time when the cost of essentials such as food and fuel has soared. Living standards look set to be a key political battleground between now and the general election in May 2015 with ministers hoping that the worst may now be over. But the ONS said it is ‘difficult to conclude that there has yet been a break from the trend of falling real wage growth’ following a drop of 1.5 per cent between the third quarter of 2012 and the same period of 2013. It followed a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies showing the average family has an income today which is lower than it was 13 years ago. DAILY MAIL

Floods: Environment Agency frontline staff hit by cuts, whistleblowers reveal
Deep government cuts to the EA budgets means it will have shed a quarter of its staff by October and senior insiders have told the Guardian that hundreds of staff, including those work with the fire and police services and those issuing flood warnings, are being cut. One whistleblower said at the same time that frontline staff were being put onto 24/7 duty rotas, managers were being asked to cut staff by 13% across all regions of the country. Lord Smith, chair of the EA, said last month: "An absolute red line for us is that we have to be able to maintain our ability to respond to flooding emergencies wherever they are happening. Our response to flooding emergencies must be protected and will be protected." GUARDIAN

March
Big Six energy firms face full-scale probe as watchdog finds profits QUADRUPLED to more than £1billion in three years
The Big Six energy companies face a full-scale competition investigation amid widespread public distrust of the industry, soaring profits and evidence of possible ‘tacit’ coordination. Months of building distrust and debate around the energy market came to a head this morning as the regulator Ofgem announced the market will face a full investigation. The investigation would be the first full-scale competition probe into the energy market and would see the UK’s biggest suppliers come under an unprecedented level of scrutiny, with the threat of being broken up. Despite the rising profits, the damning report from the regulator said there was ‘no clear evidence of suppliers becoming more efficient in reducing their own costs’ and that further evidence would be required ‘to determine whether firms have had the opportunity to earn excess profits’. DAILY MAIL 
The NHS has lost nearly 4,000 senior nursing posts since 2010
The drastic cuts are putting patient care at risk, warns the Royal College of Nursing (RCN). The NHS is in the middle of a tough drive to save £20bn by 2015. The government has claimed this can be achieved through efficiency savings and the frontline should not be harmed. But the RCN disagrees. The RCN says that hidden within wider nursing workforce cuts are a significant loss and devaluation of skills and experience. Dr Peter Carter, chief executive and general secretary of the RCN said: "As more patients require complex care from specialist nurses, letting so many years of skills and experience vanish from the NHS is an utterly reckless policy... These cuts are a short-term attempt by trusts to find efficiency savings, yet they will lead to a very serious and very long-term crisis in our health service." BBC NEWS

G4S agrees to repay £109m for overcharging on tagging contracts
The private security firm G4S has agreed to repay £109m plus VAT for overcharging the Ministry of Justice for the electronic tagging of offenders – but still remains barred from bidding for fresh contracts. The repayment follows a similar £70.5m settlement with the outsourcing group Serco. The two companies have now agreed to repay nearly £180m for overcharging on tagging and prisoner escort contracts, indicating that the scale of the scandal is 10 times larger than previous estimates of £15m to £20m. In November justice ministers rejected an offer by G4S of a £24m "credit note" after it admitted overcharging on its electronic monitoring contract had been going on for years. The MoJ has said the overcharging practices stretched back at least to 2005. Both companies are still facing a criminal investigation by the Serious Fraud Office into their operation of tagging contracts. GUARDIAN

Councils using lie detector tests that "don't work" to catch benefit fraudsters
More than 20 councils have used or plan to use controversial lie detector tests to catch fraudulent benefits claimants, despite the government dropping the technology because it was found to be not sufficiently reliable. Leading experts in linguistics at Stockholm University said that VRA "does nothing. That is the short answer. There's no scientific basis for this method. From the output it generates this analysis is closer to astrology than science. There was very good work done by the DWP in the UK showing it did not work, so I am surprised." But a number of councils – Redcar, Middlesbrough, West Dorset and Wycombe – said they were convinced of VRA's merits and were considering using it in the future. GUARDIAN

April
A third of lamb curries and kebabs are 'another meat'
The Foods Standards Agency (FSA) found that 43 out of 145 samples of lamb takeaways - usually curries or kebabs - were wrongly described. The FSA said 25 of the samples were found to contain only beef, which is cheaper than lamb. Chicken and turkey were also found, but no samples contained horsemeat. Takeaway owners can be fined up to £5,000 for mislabelling food. "Prosecutions have taken place against business owners for mislabelling lamb dishes, but the recurring nature of the problem shows there needs to be a renewed effort to tackle this problem," said Andrew Rhodes, chief operating officer at the FSA. "Clearly the message isn't getting through to some businesses," he added. BBC NEWS

Energy giants pocket £75m of green tax cuts which were supposed to save millions of households £50 on their energy bills
Millions of households have missed out on a £50 saving on their energy bill because a cut in the green tax has been swiped by suppliers rather than handing the cut to their customers. All of the big six firms — British Gas, EDF Energy, Eon, Npower, Scottish and Southern Energy and Scottish Power — will save money this year after the Government slashed network charges and the cost of implementing green schemes. And they will no longer have to pick up the tab for a Warm Home Discount — which gives vulnerable customers a £135 reduction on their electricity bill. The Government had said the green tax cut would save households around £50 on their annual gas and electricity bill. However, four months on and millions of customers have not received a penny in discount. An estimated five million households have missed out on the reduction because they are on a fixed-rate deal. The energy companies claim most people have benefited by up to £35. But this still means they have pocketed the remainder  — at £15 from each fixed-rate customer, that makes £75 million. DAILY MAIL

Hospital bed shortage exposed: UK now has second lowest number per capita in Europe
A study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development found that among 23 European countries, the UK now has the second lowest number of hospital beds per capita. As a result, countries such as France and Germany now have more than twice as many beds per head as Britain. Only Sweden — which has invested heavily in community care — has fewer beds for its population. Meanwhile levels of overcrowding in hospitals have repeatedly breached recommended safety limits, causing longer waiting times, cancelled operations and a raised the risk of the spread of superbugs. Official figures show that since 2001, more than 50,000 NHS hospital beds have been lost in England alone. TELEGRAPH

World Cup 2014: England shirts' £90 price tag 'takes the mickey'
The Football Association has been criticised after new England replica shirts were put on sale for up to £90. The previous Nike home kit has only been around since last May, a total of seven England matches. Shadow Sports Minister Clive Efford said "The frequency with which these kits are changed adds to the expense. When it comes to buying for more than one child it gets extremely expensive and people on moderate or low incomes are excluded from that privilege." A Football Supporters' Federation spokesman said: "Fans with kids often argue that strips are changed too often. The FSF would advocate manufacturers incorporating a 'best before' date into the strip's label. Supporters buying a strip would then know exactly what they're paying for and be able to make a decision based on that." BBC NEWS

May
British Gas salesmen who double your bills 'were treated like celebrities and given free helicopter rides for ripping off customers'
British Gas paid staff bonuses for inflating business customers’ bills – and churches and charities were targeted because they had fewer resources to shop around. Employees who made the highest profits by ensuring customers were sold the most expensive deals possible were sent on holidays to places such as Monaco, Rome and Iceland. Employees selling gas at base price for a one-year contract earn £18, but if they double costs to 5.5p per unit over three years they earn £435. Their food and drink was paid for and often they were given spending money. Other rewards included vouchers, 3D TVs, laptops, theatre tickets and PlayStations. A whistleblower who won a holiday said: ‘You were treated as if you were a celebrity. They spent thousands on each person for these trips... We are encouraged to charge as much as we can. If the customer is a charity, or someone who doesn’t speak English, they are so easy to mislead, it’s gold dust to us. British Legion is great because the volunteers are elderly.” DAILY MAIL

The rich get richer: Britain's wealthiest DOUBLE their fortunes since the financial crash and are now worth £519billion
The fortunes of the 1,000 richest men and women in the UK rose by 15.4% in the last year. It also means that total wealth has doubled since 2009, when the top 1,000 were worth a measly £258billion. The figures were revealed in the Sunday Times Rich List. The list is based on 'identifiable wealth' - including land, property, other assets such as art and racehorses, or significant shares in publicly quoted companies. It excludes bank accounts, which the Sunday Times has no access to. Figures released by the Office for National Statistics last week revealed that there is a monumental gap between the rich and the poor in the UK, with the wealthiest 1 per cent owning the same amount as the 55 per cent poorest in the UK. DAILY MAIL

London has more billionaires than any other city in the world while Britons’ use of food banks rises 163%
The survey of Britain’s superrich compiled annually for the Sunday Times newspaper is likely to prompt debate in a country where many still struggle financially and where food banks are a fact of life despite economic growth recently returning to levels not seen since the 2008 financial crash. London is home to 72 of Britain’s 104 billionaires, well ahead of Moscow in second place with 48 people. New York is in third place with 43. Britain also has more billionaires per head of population than any other country. The Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest food bank network, said the number of people who they had served had risen 163% in the last year to just over 913,000 people. The group labeled the figure “shocking,” particularly as it does not include those helped by other food providers or the large number of people too ashamed to seek help and who cope by eating less food. JAPAN TIMES

The Sky sales staff who say they are under pressure to cheat
A group of Sky's door-to-door agents have contacted the Guardian to allege mis-selling by rogue commission-led doorstep sellers who they say have pushed customers into costly contracts which leap in price; lied about broadband speeds and download limits; promised services that are not part of their packages; and faked customer agreements. The whistleblowers say that behind the rogue practices (there is no suggestion that they have been ordered to mis-sell by Sky) lie commission incentives and branch managers who ignore internal complaints, as overall sales figures add to their bonuses. GUARDIAN

June
Reduction in GP funding puts entire NHS at risk, says GP leader
Patients are being put at risk by "brutal disinvestment" in general practice and are now often waiting two weeks for appointments, the chair of the British Medical Association's GPs' committee will warn on Wednesday. In a speech at the annual BMA conference, Chaand Nagpaul will warn that general practice is "imploding". He will say that a reduction of £450m in funding, in real terms, over the past three years, coupled with a 40m increase in annual demand for appointments over the past five years has put the future of many surgeries, and that of the entire NHS, at risk. He accused the government of having gone back on a promise to help 98 practices identified by the NHS as at risk of closure. "They said last year they would provide support and now these practices are finding they have no support," he said. "They have reneged on their promise." GUARDIAN

Rabbit-hutch Britain: Growing health concerns as UK sets record for smallest properties in Europe
Britain is in the grip of an invisible housing squeeze with millions of people living in homes that are too small for them, according to new research which reveals that more than half of all dwellings are failing to meet minimum modern standards on size. The poorest households are being hit hardest, with estimates suggesting that four-fifths of those affected by the Coalition’s “bedroom tax” are already forced to contend with a shortage of space. The findings will put pressure on the Government, which announced it was to develop a national space standard – although this will only be enforced where it does not impinge on development. Critics argue that the UK already has the smallest properties in Europe following the end of national guidelines in 1980. The average floor space for a dwelling in the UK as a whole is currently 85 sq metres, whilst new-builds average only 76 sq metres – putting Britain at the bottom of a league table of 15 countries including Ireland, Portugal and Italy. When analysed by floor space instead of the number of rooms, 55 per cent of all homes fail to meet the industry-wide standards. Overcrowding causes health problems including depression, insomnia and asthma. INDEPENDENT

A third of UK households 'in poverty'? Research claims 18million struggle to afford decent housing, food and heating
Researchers found that the numbers ‘in poverty’ had increased sharply over the past 30 years from 14 per cent to 33 per cent of households despite the size of the economy doubling. The majority of children who suffer from multiple deprivations live with one or two siblings, with both parents, have at least one employed parent, and are white and live in England. 5.5 million adults go without essential clothing, 2.5 million children live in damp homes and 1.5 million children live in households that cannot afford to heat their home. The report is by the Poverty and Social Exclusion report funded by the Economic and Social Research Council. Anti-poverty campaigners claim that full-time work is not always sufficient to escape poverty. Low wages and working conditions in many parts of the UK mean that one in six adults in paid work is suffering from a low income and cannot afford basic necessities. Whist wage growth remains low, full-time work is not sufficient to escape from poverty for a 'large number of people', with almost half the employed poor working 40 hours a week or more. DAILY MAIL

Parking fine profits soar to £350million: Councils accused of targeting motorists after raking in 11% more in just two years
Drivers were forced to pay out a record £350million in parking tickets last year. The 11 per cent increase in just two years came as local authorities were being forced to freeze council tax and trim spending in line with Coalition austerity demands. And the rapid jump in parking penalty revenues immediately led to accusations that councils target  motorists to raise cash. The figures, from the Department for Communities and Local Government, show that councils make almost as much from fines as they do from meters, permits and other parking fees, which brought in £369million. Peter Box, of the Local Government Association, the umbrella body for councils, said: ‘All income from charges and fines is spent on running parking services and any surplus goes on essential transport projects such as  tackling the £12billion bill to repair our dilapidated road network and providing subsidised bus travel for children or elderly residents.’ Last month it was revealed that as many as 75 councils use spy vehicles fitted with cameras and numberplate recognition systems to patrol the streets gathering evidence to hit unsuspecting motorists with fines. Figures showed that between November 2012 and October 2013, the use of more than 110 council spy vehicles in England and Wales resulted in 330,000 penalty charge notices for parking offences and ‘moving traffic violations’. DAILY MAIL

July
Energy firms to 'double' profit margins, predicts Ofgem
A year ago, Ofgem estimated that suppliers would make an average profit of £53 per dual fuel customer, a margin of 4%. But in the year ahead they now expect energy firms to make £106 per customer, increasing their margin to 8%. The industry said the figures do not take tax or interest into account. However Ofgem - which will officially publish the details on Thursday - said it was further evidence that the market was not working as well as it should. It has already referred the industry - and the profits it makes - to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA). It has also written to the suppliers to ask why falls in wholesale prices last winter have not resulted in lower bills. BBC NEWS

RBS chief says foreign exchange manipulation fines could costs banks more than Libor scandal
RBS paid $612m (£390m) last year to settle allegations that it manipulated Libor rates, one of several banks hit with big fines for rigging financial benchmarks. Regulators are now investigating allegations that traders manipulated key reference rates in the $5 trillion-a-day foreign exchange market. Asked if the foreign exchange (forex, or FX) investigation could be a bigger problem for the industry than Libor, RBS Chief Executive Ross McEwan said: "Unfortunately, it has the hallmarks". U.S. and European regulators have handed down about $6 billion in fines to 10 banks and brokerages, including UBS, Barclays and Deutsche Bank for alleged rigging of Libor and its euro cousin Euribor, and more banks are expected to be hit. But a number of industry analysts have said the combination of fines from investigations into forex manipulation in more than half a dozen jurisdictions worldwide, and the potential for suits by fund managers and other investors, could saddle banks with a bill several times costlier than Libor. REUTERS
  
Rents rose FOUR times faster than earnings in the last year as demand continues to surge
The latest figures from the Homelet Rental Index show that UK private home rents have risen 7.5 per cent in the last year, compared to a 1.7 per cent rise in wages. Homelet also found evidence that more affluent tenants are entering the rental market, helping to drive up prices and reducing the options of those on lower incomes. The average rent in the UK now stands at £846-a-month, compared to just £787 a year ago, with the rise inflated by hefty increases in East Anglia and Greater London, where rents were up 10.7 and 9.4 per cent respectively. The Bank of England's intervention into the mortgage market and retirees making use of new pension freedom rules to invest in buy-to-let could mean buying a home will become even harder for renters. DAILY MAIL

Former Tory health minister: NHS in danger of collapse within five years
Senior Tories have called on David Cameron to increase NHS spending significantly. Stephen Dorrell, a former Conservative health secretary, claimed that the challenge to make £30bn efficiency savings to redistribute around the NHS had failed. He said he would be ashamed if the NHS budget did not receive a boost in income at a time when the economy was growing. "I am in favour of the government not denying what 5,000 years of history tells us is true, which is that every time a society gets richer it spends a rising share of its income on looking after the sick and the vulnerable," he said. A slew of bad news over the NHS has raised Tory fears that the health service could again prove to be a toxic issue just 10 months before a general election. The NHS says 299,031 patients arrived at A&E departments last week – the highest number on record. A&E waiting time targets were missed for the 49th consecutive week and a record number of beds were filled last month by patients who could not be discharged, often because community or social care services were not in place. This week Labour MP Clive Efford introduced a private member's bill to lay out how it would repeal the coalition government's controversial health and social care act, which ushered in greater private sector involvement in the NHS. GUARDIAN

British Gas and Sainsbury's Energy embroiled in mis-selling scandal
British Gas, part of energy giant Centrica, has now agreed to pay compensation to customers who were provided with inaccurate information when signing up for tariffs. The majority were signing up to tariffs branded as Sainsbury's Energy but sold by British Gas staff through its partnership deal. The supplier has paid in the region of £500,000 compensation, shared between roughly 4,300 customers who were given incorrect information about their likely savings. The figure is a relatively small sum compared with other mis-selling cases but is symbolic because British Gas had prided itself on being the only one of the major energy companies not to have mis-sold. TELEGRAPH

August
Workers in the UK are CHEAPER to hire than in Spain or Italy as stagnant wages erode British pay packets
The average cost of employing someone in the UK remained unchanged at 20.90 euros an hour last year – significantly below the EU average of 23.70 euros. Meanwhile the cost of employing someone in Spain is higher at 21.10 euros and higher still at 28.10 euros in Italy, according to official figures from the EU's statistics office Eurostat. The average hourly labour cost in Norway is more than double that of the UK at an eye-watering 48.50 euros an hour. Meanwhile Labour costs in Germany are now around 50 per cent higher than in the UK – 31.3 euros an hour versus the UK’s 20.9 euros. Labour costs in France are even higher at 34.3 euros an hour. In fact the UK is among just five countries that saw wages fall or stay the same between 2008 and 2013, including Poland, Hungary, Croatia and Greece. Wages are expected to grow by just 1.25 per cent this year, which amounts to a drop in real terms as inflation is currently at 1.6 per cent. A weak pound throughout the economic downturn may also have helped widen the gap between the UK and its EU neighbours. DAILY MAIL

UK taxpayer faces £220m bill over e-borders contract termination
The e-borders programme, devised by the Labour government in 2003, was designed to vet travellers entering or leaving the country by checking their details against police, security and immigration watchlists. The contract was ended by the government in July 2010 because the Home Office said it had no confidence in Raytheon, the company that won it in 2007 and which had fallen a year behind schedule on delivery. However, an arbitration tribunal has now awarded the Massachusetts-based company £49.98m in damages after it found that the processes by which the now-defunct UK Border Agency reached the decision to scrap the agreement were flawed. The Home Office must also pay Raytheon £9.6m for disputed contract-change notices, £126m for assets acquired through the contract between 2007 and 2010, and £38m in interest. GUARDIAN

London gets 24 times as much spent on infrastructure per resident than north-east England
Figures derived from a research report by IPPR, show Londoners receive £5,203 more per head on capital investment than people in the north-east – a discrepancy sure to reignite a long-running row on whether London’s growth is coming at the detriment of the rest of the UK. One third of planned infrastructure spending in London is the £14.5bn earmarked for Crossrail with line upgrades on the Tube receiving the second most at £8.2bn. The biggest rail project currently set to specifically address the needs of those in the north of England is the delivery of a range of products including improvements to the journey time on the Manchester Airport through the Ordsall Chord, which will cost £498.1m (3.4% of the cost of Crossrail). The UK chancellor George Osborne has endorsed a £15bn plan to improve infrastructure in five northern cities. Although he did not commit to any funding, Osborne said the overall aim was: “To end the imbalance in the UK economy so our success is not wholly dependent on the global city of London, so we have across the north of England individual cities that are better connected, have a better quality of life, and are able to create.” GUARDIAN

September
G4S, Serco: Cancelling “guaranteed profits” probation contracts could cost taxpayers £300m-£400m
Taxpayers will face a £300m-£400m penalty if controversial probation privatisation contracts are cancelled after next May's general election under an "unprecedented" clause that guarantees bidders their expected profits over the 10-year life of the contract. Labour is already committed to unpicking the justice ministry contracts to outsource probation services but will not now be able to do so without incurring the multimillion pound bill because of "poison pill" clauses written in by Chris Grayling's department. The Ministry of Justice say they are only following Treasury guidance by including the clause, which raises the prospect that similar clauses are being included in other politically controversial contracts across Whitehall that are to be signed before next May's general election. Margaret Hodge, the chairman of the Commons public accounts committee, has asked the Whitehall spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, to challenge any politically contentious contracts that are signed in the dying months before the general election: "It is not value for money. It is unacceptable and must be challenged before the event." The disclosure comes as the two outsourcing firms at the centre of serious fraud inquiries, G4S and Serco, confirmed they had been granted new government work during a period when the justice secretary, Chris Grayling, had told MPs that contracts would not be awarded. The confirmation has led to claims that Grayling misled parliament. GUARDIAN

Southeastern handed four-year rail deal despite rating “worst” with passengers
Southeastern has been handed a new four-year deal to run commuter railways in London and Kent, despite having the most dissatisfied passengers of any train operator. The company, run by Govia – a joint venture of Go-Ahead and the SNCF-owned Keolis – was given a direct award without competition to continue services until June 2018. It is the seventh such deal after the West Coast franchising fiasco ripped up the government's timetable for reletting the railways. The Department for Transport said that the operator would be forced to improve services while its subsidy would be cut. But the deal was met with dismay by passenger groups and unions who described it as a "reward for failure". GUARDIAN

MPs' pay rise of 9% 'should go ahead'
Marcial Boo, chief executive of the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa), said MPs did an important job and should not be paid a "miserly amount". Their pay will go up from £67,000 to £74,000 under Ipsa's plan. The PM, Nick Clegg and Ed Miliband called the hike unacceptable when it was proposed at the end of last year. The Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour party leaders argued it would be wrong when public sector pay rises were capped at 1%. But speaking to the Sunday Telegraph in his first interview since taking on the job, Mr Boo said a review of evidence had shown that economic forecasts were improving while MPs' salaries had "fallen behind" others working in comparable public sector roles. The proposed £74,000 figure was now seen by some as being "at the low end", he claimed, adding that pay needed to be fair to attract good candidates. The one-off increase is part of a package that will see MPs pay more into their pensions, as well as the end of resettlement payments. Ipsa says that overall the reforms will not cost taxpayers any more than the present scheme. BBC NEWS
  
Gas costs you THREE times what the energy firms pay: Millions of households being ripped off after wholesale cost halves in six months
Wholesale costs have halved in six months yet bills have not fallen. British Gas customers are paying between £1.35 and £1.50 per therm. Its parent company, Centrica, announced profits of £900million for the first six months of the financial year. Yet the wholesale gas price paid by suppliers has hit a four-year low of less than 42p per therm, down from 72p in December. The other Big Six energy companies – nPower, EDF, SSE, E.on and Scottish Power – charge between £1.21 and £1.37 per therm. One therm of gas is enough to power a domestic boiler at full output for almost two hours. British Gas spokesman Tim Cowen said: ‘The wholesale cost of energy is now less than half the bill, which partly explains why the wholesale price can fall, but overall prices don’t... We also have other costs, such as regulated transport and distribution costs, that are rising.' The boss of one of the big six energy companies, nPower, has said Labour’s promise to  freeze energy prices if they win next year’s election is a factor in his company not reducing its prices. But Labour energy spokesman Caroline Flint rejected claims that her party’s pledge is to blame for energy firms keeping bills high. ‘It’s always the same old story – when wholesale prices go up, energy bills go through the roof, but when they fall consumers never see the full benefit,’ she said. The Competition and Markets Authority is holding an inquiry into the energy supply business. DAILY MAIL

October
Price comparison sites hiding best energy deals, claims rival
The Big Deal has written to the five websites - uSwitch, Compare the Market, MoneySuperMarket, Go Compare and Confused.com - to complain. It said all five use a mechanism on their site that asks consumers if they want to switch immediately. By clicking "yes" to that question, all the deals that do not earn the company a commission are filtered out. Only if a consumer clicks "no" are they shown other deals, which can be cheaper. Overall it said that almost a third of energy deals get hidden in this way. The Big Deal has also written to complain to the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA), which is already carrying out a review of the energy market. Most of the websites involved told the BBC that they also adhere to Ofgem's Consumer Confidence code, designed to protect people switching. However Ofgem said it was already working on plans to change its code, so that customers are able to view all the tariffs, regardless of the commission the website will earn. BBC NEWS

Cost of dying sees biggest jump in six years to £8,427
The average cost of dying has soared by 10.6% to £8,427 – seven times the rate of inflation and the biggest jump in six years – according to the latest annual research for an ongoing major study. The analysis from insurance company Sun Life Direct of death-related costs – which include the expenses of a basic funeral, probate and memorials such as headstones – also reveals that almost half of bereaved families are opting for DIY estate administration in order to save money. Almost half (48%) are now choosing to do it themselves, compared to just 39% in 2013. Saving money was a key motivation cited by respondents. While the cost of the funeral has risen sharply at more than twice the rate of inflation to £3,590 – a rise of 3.9% since 2013 and a staggering 87% higher than in Sun Life’s first survey carried out eleven years ago – it nevertheless accounts for less than half (43%) of the total cost of dying. GUARDIAN

Richest 1% of people own nearly half of global wealth, says Credit Suisse report
The richest 1% of the world’s population are getting wealthier, owning more than 48% of global wealth, according to a report published on Tuesday which warned growing inequality could be a trigger for recession. The report said: “...abnormally high wealth income ratios have always signaled recession in the past”. The Credit Suisse analysts pointed to the debate that has been sparked by work such as that by Thomas Piketty into long-term trends towards inequality. It pointed out that while inequality had increased in many countries outside the G7, within the group of most developed economies it was only in the UK that inequality had risen since the turn of the century. Globally, a person needs just $3,650 – including the value of equity in their home – to be among the wealthiest half of world citizens. However, more than $77,000 is required to be a member of the top 10% of global wealth holders, and $798,000 to belong to the top 1%. The findings were seized upon by anti-poverty campaigners Oxfam which published research at the start of the year showing that the richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of £1tn, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population. GUARDIAN

Supermarkets charge suppliers £80,000 just to get new products on store shelves, fuelling a third of profits
Supermarkets are making as much as a third of their profits from suppliers by demanding the type of charges that have led to the accounting scandal at Tesco. Tesco has admitted that it has overestimated its half-year profit by up to £250million and the overstatement is said to relate directly to the miscalculation of the commercial charges imposed on suppliers. The scale of such ‘commercial income’ – as it is known in the industry – is not spelt out in the financial results of supermarkets and its crucial importance has only begun to emerge in the wake of the Tesco fiasco. The fees include penalty charges for late or incomplete shipments, bonuses for hitting sales targets, refunds for promotional discounts and one-off payments for a multitude of reasons such as launching new products. The fees are lumped in on top of simple retail profits and they can grow to huge sums when large supermarkets are able to negotiate more lucrative deals with their suppliers. It has also come to light that Tesco was rapped at the end of last year by supermarkets watchdog the Groceries Code Adjudicator for unfairly using its size to demand that suppliers pay extra fees to secure the best positions on its shelves. Adjudicator Christine Tacon warned Tesco last December that it should not have been asking for such payments. The ruling followed a formal complaint from trade body the British Brands Group about the charges. A spokeswoman for the Adjudicator said eight out of ten suppliers complained they had experienced issues that could be in breach of the supermarkets’ code of conduct. Supermarkets could face hefty fines – as well as a huge fall in total profits – if widespread abuse is uncovered. DAILY MAIL

Banking regulator FCA may fine banks £2bn for currency-rigging
The City regulator has this week held secret talks with some of the world's biggest banks about a settlement for the manipulation of global foreign exchange markets that could cost the lenders a total of around £2bn in fines. The banks, which also include Barclays, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Citi, JP Morgan and UBS, would pay different sums, depending on the gravity of their traders' alleged efforts to artificially move foreign currency rates. However, a person close to the talks said the FCA had informed some of the banks' lawyers that the smallest of the penalties imposed for foreign exchange-rigging were likely easily to outstrip the biggest of the fines it has so far handed out for manipulation of the interbank borrowing rate Libor. Such an outcome would chime with a warning from Martin Wheatley, the FCA chief executive, in February, when he told MPs that allegations about collusion to rig prices in the $5.3tn (£3.25tn) spot market were "every bit as bad as they have been with Libor". The largest fine dished out by the FCA for Libor-rigging to date was £160m paid by UBS in December 2012. SKY NEWS

November
300,000 paid less than minimum wage. Yet in the past year, no companies were prosecuted
The Annual Survey of Hours and Earnings for the Office for National Statistics recently found that about 287,000 workers were paid at less than the minimum wage in 2012, although the TUC puts the figure closer to 350,000. But despite ministers’ claims that the government is getting tough on under-payers, the last successful criminal prosecution was in February 2013. That was one of only two prosecutions during the government’s entire term of office to date, according to figures given to parliament. The cases involved the imposition of fines to the value of £3,696 on an opticians in Manchester and £1,000 on a security company in London. Failing to pay the minimum wage was made a criminal offence in 2007. Under Labour, seven organisations were prosecuted, including Torbay council. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) said that only the most serious breaches of the national minimum wage are prosecuted. But because the average cost of a successful prosecution was around £50,000 HMRC believed it was preferable to focus on recouping wages for workers through civil penalty powers. HMRC conducted 1,455 investigations in 2013-14, securing over £4.6m in wage arrears for over 22,000 workers. The number of HMRC staff enforcing the minimum wage now stands at 194, which is 40 more than in 2009-10. GUARDIAN

Forcing small businesses out of business: RBS apologises for 'incorrect' evidence to MPs
RBS was facing allegations that its global restructuring group (GRG) forced customers out of business so it could buy their assets and make a profit. Giving evidence in June to the Treasury Committee, senior directors Derek Sach and Chris Sullivan denied it was run as a profit centre. However, in a July letter, Mr Sullivan admitted it was run in this way. In a letter to Andrew Tyrie MP (the treasury Committee chairman), written in August but released yesterday, RBS chairman Sir Philip Hampton wrote: "This lack of clarity on a very important point is very disappointing to the committee, as it is to me, and I apologise for it." The apology caps a difficult few days for RBS. On Friday, it said it had miscalculated the results of a stress test by the European Banking Authority. A day earlier, RBS was fined £56m for a 2012 IT failure. TELEGRAPH
  
Tuition fees: Three quarters of students won’t be able to pay off their debt
Student debt is now so high compared to average salaries that many graduates in respectable public sector professions will be unable to repay their fees even by the end of the 30-year repayment period, the Higher Education Commission warns. This funding "black hole" is forcing the Government to indirectly subsidise higher education writing off billions of pounds in student debt - even though the point of £9,000 a year fees was to make universities less reliant on the taxpayer. The commission, an independent body set up to monitor higher education, concludes that the current university fees system offers the “"worst of both worlds" to students, universities and the Government - and warns that some institutions are now at risk of "failure". According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies, the average student debt will be £44, 015 - higher even than the US. "The Commission fundamentally questions any system that charges higher education at a rate where the average graduate will not be able to pay it back... We are deeply concerned that the Government may have created a loan repayment system where, for example, a teacher is unable to secure a mortgage at age 35 because of the high level of monthly loan repayment." INDEPENDENT

300,000 more people live in poverty than previously thought
The study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said the government method for calculating absolute poverty – the number of people living below a breadline that rises each year in line with the cost of living – incorrectly assumed that all households faced the same inflation rate. But in the six years from early 2008 to early 2014, the cost of energy had risen by 67% and the cost of food by 32%. Over the same period the retail prices index – a measure of the cost of a basket of goods and services – had gone up by 22%. Therefore, the soaring prices for food and fuel over the past decade have had a bigger impact on struggling families who spend more of their budgets on staple goods. The IFS report said the poorest 20% of households spent 8% of their budgets on energy and 20% on food, while the richest 20% spent 4% on energy and 11% on food. In contrast, poorer households allocated 3% of their budgets to mortgage interest payments, which have fallen by 40% since 2008 due to the cut in official interest from 5% to 0.5%. Richer households spend 8% of their budgets on servicing home loans. As a result, the IFS concluded that since 2008-09 the annual inflation rate faced by the poorest 20% had been higher than it was for the richest 20% of households. That meant the official measure of absolute poverty understated the figure by 0.5% – or 300,000. GUARDIAN

Six banks fined £2.6bn by regulators over manipulation of foreign exchange rates
HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Swiss bank UBS and US banks JP Morgan Chase, Citibank and Bank of America have all been fined. A separate probe into Barclays is continuing. The fines were issued by the UK's Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and two US regulators. FCA boss Martin Wheatley told the BBC: "This isn't the end of the story... The individuals themselves will face the consequences." Several senior traders at the banks have already been put on leave and the Serious Fraud Office is in the process of preparing potential criminal charges against those alleged to have masterminded the scheme. The fines follow a 13-month investigation by regulators into claims that the foreign exchange market - in which banks and other financial firms buy and sell currencies between one another - was being rigged. The massive market, in which $5.3 trillion worth of currencies are traded daily, dwarfs the stock and bond markets. About 40% of the world's dealing is estimated to go through trading rooms in London. The FCA said the "tight knit groups" formed by traders at the different banks had described themselves as "the 3 musketeers", "the A-team" and "1 team, 1 dream". However, Professor Mark Taylor, a former foreign exchange trader and now dean at Warwick Business School, said the fines were "relatively small beer for banks that regularly report billions of dollars in annual profit... The interesting thing is that there are no individuals named as yet, and no individual prosecutions. This is still a possibility and it will be interesting to see how that pans out. At the moment, it's really only the shareholders - which in the case of RBS means British taxpayers - who suffer from these fines." BBC NEWS
  
Spread the Warmth: Age UK launches campaign, revealing one older person dies needlessly every seven minutes from the cold in winter
Age UK estimates that 1.7 million older people in the UK can’t afford to heat their homes, and over a third (36%) of older people in the UK say they live mainly in one room to save money. Cold weather adds to the financial worries of older people. 30% say they avoid heating rooms like the bedroom, bathroom or living room because they are worried about the cost. The UK has some of the worst levels of home energy efficiency in Europe, and other much colder countries have much lower death rates in winter than the UK because their homes are better insulated. With high quality insulation and modern technology, millions of UK homes could be made much warmer. And the Government could pay for this using the billions of pounds they already raise in carbon taxes. This would bring down bills, and above all, help millions of older people keep warm and healthy through the winter. AGE UK

MPs to escape expenses investigations after paperwork destroyed by Parliament
John Bercow, the Speaker, faces accusations he has presided over a fresh cover-up of MPs' expenses after tens of thousands of pieces of paperwork relating to claims made before 2010 were shredded. Members of the public who have written to Kathryn Hudson, the standards watchdog, to raise concerns about their MP’s claims have been told there can now be no investigation due to lack of evidence. Under the House of Commons' "Authorised Records Disposal Practice", which is overseen by Mr Bercow’s committee, records of MPs’ expenses claims are destroyed after three years. The move is necessary to comply with data protection laws, a Commons spokesman said. However, under that same set of guidelines, the pay, discipline and sickness records of Commons staff are kept until their 100th birthday. Health and safety records are kept for up to 40 years, while thousands of other classes of official documents on the day-to-day running of the House are stored indefinitely in the Parliamentary Archive. The shredding of the claims records means that “cold case” investigations like that into Maria Miller, the former Culture Secretary, by the expenses watchdog are now unlikely. In April Mrs Miller was forced to resign from the Cabinet and apologise to the Commons after Mrs Hudson ruled she had wrongly claimed thousands of pounds in mortgage payments between 2005 and 2009 on a home occupied by her parents. TELEGRAPH

Rail ticket 'rip-off': Self-service machines routinely denied cheapest fares to passengers
Self-service machines — which are used to purchase almost a quarter of all tickets sold annually — offer wildly different fares. Customers buying from a machine can pay more than £200 when a ticket for the same destination can be found elsewhere at the station for more than £100 cheaper. For example, at machines run by train company Northern Rail in Leeds, passengers buying a First-Class Anytime Return to Birmingham were charged £271. Only feet away, an East Coast trains machine offered the same journey using a First-Class Off-peak Return for £145.70. This type of ticket is not available for customers using Northern Rail’s machines, which means that some passengers might not be aware that they could save £125.30 by travelling off-peak. The investigation also found that many machines promote expensive fares, bury cheaper options and do not apply discounts for groups or families. Since 2004, the proportion of passenger revenue collected by machines has grown from just seven to 21 percent. Rail travel is at record levels with 1.59 billion journeys recorded in 2013-2014. In 2011, Theresa Villiers, as transport minister, condemned rail companies over how difficult ticket machines were to use and challenged the industry to clean up its act. But The Telegraph investigation examined rail fares across the country and found that customers were being offered different prices for the same journey depending on which operator’s machine they used. TELEGRAPH

December
Cost of ministers' special advisers hits £8.4m
There are now 103 "spads" employed to give advice over and above the work carried out by civil servants, up from 98 last year. They include a total of 26 working for David Cameron in Downing Street and 20 working for Nick Clegg. The government said it reflected the "nature of coalition" and that their average pay was higher under Labour. Labour said the figures showed that the overall numbers of special advisers had risen inexorably under the coalition. This year’s total salary bill is over a million higher than the £7.2m spent in 2012-13. The Coalition Agreement said the government would "put a limit on the number on special advisers" but the pay bill and numbers have increased over the past few years. BBC NEWS

It’s expensive being poor: Poorest households face fastest cost of living rise
The Office for National Statistics (ONS) said that households in the bottom 10% of the income scale had an average annual inflation rate of 2.9% each year from January 2003 to October 2014. This compared with an inflation rate of 2.6% among the wealthiest 10% of UK households. Caroline Abrahams, charity director at charity Age UK, said: "Because older and lower income groups spend a greater proportion of their income on essentials such as food, fuel and energy, they are far more vulnerable to the price increases we have seen to these items since 2003... With 1.6 million pensioners living in poverty and a further one million just above the breadline, many are struggling to afford the basics, let alone anything else." When categorising households by how much they spend, rather than their income, the top 10% of households saw prices rise, on average, by 2.3% over the same period. This compared with 3.7% among the 10% of households which spent the least. Households with children saw the cost of living rise by 2.4% on average each year, compared with 2.7% for those without children. Non-retired households saw prices rise on average by 2.5%, compared with 2.8% for retirees. BBC NEWS

British workers suffer biggest real-wage fall of major G20 countries
The International Labour Organisation reports that in the three years to 2013 UK wages fared worse than most of the eurozone’s crisis hit economies. According to recent data released by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), wages in the UK fell 1.6% this year compared to 2013, marking a sixth straight year of declining levels of pay. The Bank of England said in its latest quarterly inflation report last month that the fall in pay, while acutest among lower skilled workers, has been registered in most parts of the labour market. Weaker-than-expected pay growth in Britain has generated lower than expected tax revenues for the government. This is a main reason why Chancellor George Osborne did not meet his deficit reduction target. GUARDIAN

Lords refused to cut costs by sharing catering services with MPs because they feared the quality of champagne "would not be as good"
Sir Malcolm Jack, the clerk of the Commons between 2006 and 2011, told MPs that there was a proposal to merge the two catering services when he was in office to save taxpayers' money. He said: "It [the proposal] was eventually thrown out because the Lords feared the quality of champagne would not be as good if they chose a joint service." Since 2010, the House of Lords has spent £265,770 on 17,000 bottles of champagne – equivalent to just over five bottle of bubbly for each peer. As of March this year, the house had 380 bottles in stock worth £5,713, predominantly held in its main cellar. The most expensive, the Chassagne-Montrachet premier cru, costs £26 per bottle. The House of Commons has spent even more on champagne, buying a total of 25,000 bottles at a cost of £275,221. As of March it had 582 bottles in stock, worth a total of £6,513. TELEGRAPH

MPs hiring even more relatives: Annual bill soars by 50% in four years to almost £3.8million
New figures show the bill for family members on the public payroll has soared by 50 per cent since the general election to hit almost £3.8million. Several Cabinet ministers are among almost 170 MPs who declare that they have a relative on their staff, with their wages funded by the taxpayer. When the new expenses regime was introduced in 2010, MPs were allowed to hire one relative, with the details declared on a register. The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority, which is now responsible for policing MPs' claims, has revealed that in 2010 there were 137 MPs employing family members but the figure soared to 167 last year. The total pay bill has rocketed from £2.4million in 2010-11 to almost £3.8million in 2013-14. It means that the average salary paid to family members has risen by a third, from just over £17,101 to just over £22,400. Ipsa does not publish exact pay details, but gives salary bands in £5,000. Records show two Tory MPs pay their wives the most. Peter Bone's wife Jeannette receives between £45,000 and £49,999 a year for working as her husband's office manager. Christopher Chope's wife Christine is in in the same salary bracket. Labour frontbencher Hilary Benn pays his wife Sally up to £24,999. Shadow energy secretary Caroline Flint pays her husband Phil Cole as her senior parliamentary assistant on up to £39,999. Shadow transport secretary Michael Dugher's wife Joanna earns up to £34,999 after moving up three pay bands when she became his office manager. Ipsa said: 'We have introduced a number of restrictions and safeguards to regulate MPs employing family members or other connected parties. 'And, crucially, we think the public should know about these arrangements — which is why we publish all the details including the name, job title and salary range of all connected parties employed by MPs.' DAILY MAIL
  
£50m tuition fees loan scam? Thousands of ‘fake’ students discovered at new private higher education colleges
The report by the National Audit Office (NAO) was prompted by a Guardian investigation into the sector which found that lecturers were teaching to empty or near-empty classrooms. Students and staff alleged that bogus students who were barely literate were using colleges as a “cash point” to access taxpayer-subsidised loans they believed they would never pay back. The new breed of private higher education colleges can charge students £6,000 a year in fees. For two of the largest of these new institutions – London School of Business and Finance, and London School of Science and Technology – the dropout rate rose to about five times the average. By comparing data on those claiming student fees with those registered with exam board Pearson/Edexcel, the spending watchdog identified 2,963 students – 20% of the total studying HNDs – who accessed student funding in 2012-13 without ever being registered to sit exams. This figure excluded students who dropped out that year. In total those students could therefore have accessed over £50m. The auditor found that another group of 5,500 undergraduates from the EU have been unable to prove they were either living in the UK or entitled to public funding. A separate internal government inquiry found that 1,000 of these students, most of whom come from Bulgaria and Romania, were definitely fraudulent and had already claimed £5.4m in student loans before being found out. The government has been able to recover just 7% of that money so far, the NAO said. GUARDIAN


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