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Thursday, 26 November 2015

Thursday, November 26, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Autumn Statement: Osborne accused of resorting to stealth taxes on big businesses, wealthy property owners and council taxpayers
The decision to raise £11.6bn from an apprenticeship levy on businesses came under immediate fire from some tax professionals, who suggested it was at odds with the government’s “triple lock” ban on increasing any of the three main taxes. The levy requires employers to pay an additional 0.5 per cent on their employment costs to fund apprenticeships, which makes it very similar to a rise in employers’ national insurance contributions. Other big increases related to council tax, fuel duty, stamp duty, capital gains tax, corporation tax and pensions tax relief. Council taxpayers will pay an extra £6.2bn by 2021 after the chancellor announced that some local authorities would be allowed to raise council tax faster than previously assumed to meet some of the costs of social care and policing. One of the biggest increases was £3.8bn of higher stamp duty on buy-to-let property and second homes. Another £1.2bn will be raised from property owners by bringing forward payments of capital gains tax on residential property to within 30 days of completion. FINANCIAL TIMES

Autumn Statement: Grants for student nurses scrapped, replaced with loans
The change has been announced as part of the government's Spending Review as it wants to "modernise" the way healthcare students are funded. The cap on the number of student nurses is being abolished too, so more people will be able to train each year. The Royal College of Nursing (RCN) is concerned, saying "student nurses shouldn't have to pay for it". The government argues that by abolishing the existing cap it will mean that far more people will be able to start training. At the moment universities only have a certain number of places to offer. The government says that over half of all applicants are turned away. It says the removal of the cap means up to 10,000 new training places will be created over the course of the parliament. But the Royal College of Nursing says the ring-fence to nursing student funding has now been removed, adding: "a precious link between the NHS and its nurses is potentially at risk, making it harder to plan for the future workforce." BBC NEWS

Young 'to be poorer than parents at every stage of life'
The study, by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said that households actually grew richer during the financial crisis. But the reason for that growth between 2006-12 was the increase in pension values over the period. And the slow rate of growth in overall wealth suggested that young people would lag behind earlier generations. Households aged between 45-54 saw the biggest increases in their pension wealth which rose on average by £38,000 over the period. The IFS said: "Even with these increases in average wealth, working-age households are at risk of being less wealthy at each age than those born a decade earlier." Among households aged 25-34, one third expected the state pension to be their largest source of income after retirement. Despite new legislation that automatically enrols workers into workplace pension schemes, nearly half (44%) did not expect to receive any income from a private pension. Rowena Crawford, a Senior Research Economist at the IFS, said: "It is striking how many individuals do not expect private pensions to have a role in financing their retirement, let alone be their main source of income... It will be interesting to see how these attitudes change as auto enrolment into workplace pensions is rolled out." BBC NEWS

RBS scraps bonuses for retail staff in bid to stem mis-selling
Royal Bank of Scotland is scrapping bonuses for 20,000 staff in an attempt to avoid future mis-selling scandals. Instead, those who work in NatWest and RBS branches as well as those who work in customer service in call centres are being given pay rises intended to compensate them for the loss of bonus potential. Union officials urged other financial institutions to follow the move by the 74% taxpayer-owned bank, which like rivals has been embroiled in the payment protection insurance mis-selling scandal. Rob MacGregor, Unite’s national officer for finance, said: “Unite has long campaigned to end the hard sell in retail banking and here we see RBS moving away from sales target-based bonuses, resulting in a pay rise for the majority of retail staff. It is time for other banks to follow suit and end the hard sell.” The sales and bonus culture in banks was highlighted by a £28m fine on Lloyds Banking Group in 2013, after one employee was found to have been so desperate to ensure he did not get demoted or miss out on his bonus that he sold himself one of the financial services products. GUARDIAN

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Wednesday, November 25, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
KJ and Fee do their own poll...

SOURCE GUARDIAN: Sun criticised by pollster behind controversial 'jihadi sympathy' story
The market research company Survation has distanced itself from how an opinion poll it carried out about British Muslims has been reported by the Sun. The newspaper is facing an increasing backlash against its front-page report of an opinion poll purporting to show that one in five British Muslims had “sympathy for jihadis”. The tabloid has been accused of misrepresenting the results of the poll, which showed that 5% of respondents agreed with the statement: “I have a lot of sympathy with young Muslims who leave the UK to join fighters in Syria” and that 14.5% said they had “some sympathy”. Critics argued that the use of the term “sympathy” was ambiguous and that it was not clear who was meant by “fighters in Syria”. Ben Page, the chief executive of Ipsos Mori, said: “The main issue with this poll is the reporting, which made it appear that one in five of those sampled supported Isis, when in fact they were expressing sympathy with people going to fight in Syria, as I understand it, which could of course include British ex-servicemen fighting against Isis with the Kurds, or anti-Assad Muslim forces who are also fighting against Isis.” Damian Lyons Lowe, Survation’s chief executive, told the Guardian: “Survation do not endorse or support the way in which this poll’s findings have been presented by the Sun newspaper and others. Neither the headline nor the body text of any articles published were shared with or approved by Survation prior to publication. “Survation categorically objects to the use of our findings by any group, as has happened on social networks, to incite racial or religious tensions.” Survation conducted a similar poll for Sky News in March. It showed a higher proportion of Muslims – 28% – showed at least some sympathy with young Muslims leaving the UK to join fighters in Syria. Non-Muslims were also polled at the time, using the same wording, and 14% agreed they had at least some sympathy with the statement. The Sun did not mention these figures in its story on Monday despite being aware of them.

SOURCE GUARDIAN: Arab states pose 'critical' risk of defence corruption
Arab states that buy billions of dollars worth of weapons are at high risk of corruption and pose a continuing threat to regional security and stability, according to a new report by watchdog Transparency International. All 17 countries suffer from lack of oversight, excessive secrecy and widespread nepotism, with networks based on family and business ties in the procurement of defence contracts. High-ranking Saudi princes preside over powerful agencies and use them to distribute patronage. Overall the region has some of the most rapidly growing defence budgets in the world, with a total spend of $135bn. Up to a third of all government spending can be on defence. There is also well-documented evidence of weapons from a wide range of countries reaching terrorist groups such as Islamic State and the Houthis in Yemen.

SOURCE TELEGRAPH: Arms companies warned by defence secretary not to rip off the taxpayer, as defence budget rises
Arms companies are to be warned that the Government’s Budget commitment to boost military spending is not a licence to rip off the Ministry of Defence, which will “not tolerate inefficiency or poor performance”. Defence Secretary Michael Fallon used a keynote speech at the world’s largest military airshow to fire the warning shot across the bows of some of the UK’s biggest companies. “While the defence budget is now protected, that doesn’t mean going back to padding profit margins through fat government contracts,” Mr Fallon is due to say. The Government will expect industry to take on more of the risk involved in future projects, the minister will also warn. This could come in the form of sharing cost over-runs. Building the Navy’s new aircraft carriers was originally budgeted at £3.65bn, though the final figure is now £6.2bn after specification changes by the MoD. Any further cost over-runs will be split between the MoD and the project’s contractors.

Thursday, 19 November 2015

Thursday, November 19, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Counterterrorism: Tory MPs urge May to resist pressure to cut police budgets
Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Bernard Hogan-Howe recently warned that planned cuts to the force’s budget risked undermining the country’s ability to foil terrorist attacks. The Met is responsible for counterterrorism policing as well as for its role in the capital. It is likely to face budget cuts of nearly £1bn over the next four years in the Spending Review. Sir Bernard told the Evening Standard last month that this equated to the loss of between 5,000 and 8,000 officers. Now Conservative MPs have urged Theresa May, home secretary, to resist pressure from the Treasury to cut police budgets following Friday’s attacks in Paris, exposing tensions within the party over Britain’s public finances. George Osborne, chancellor, is looking for cuts in some government department budgets — including the Home Office — of as much as a third in real terms over the next five years. David Cameron, prime minister, yesterday said he would boost funding for the security services, including hiring 1,900 more staff, but he did not make an equivalent commitment to policing funding. The Metropolitan Police counterterrorism officers, intelligence services and other police forces are running 600 separate investigations and arresting on average one person a day linked with a suspected plot. FINANCIAL TIMES

The great smart meter rip-off: Energy giants will use devices to DOUBLE the cost of power when you need it most
Britain’s leading power firms are expected to introduce tariffs that charge more at peak times when they roll out new electronic meters which monitor how much energy you use by the second. It means electricity and gas used in the evenings could cost 99 per cent more than at other times — penalising everyone cooking family meals, watching popular TV shows and heating their homes on chilly winter evenings. Higher charges will also apply in the morning when people are most likely to be taking baths and showers and having the central heating on. The aim, according to the energy regulator OFGEM, was to encourage customers to reduce their use at busy times. Money Mail has discovered that British Gas has already trialled a tariff that charges more at peak times. And we have uncovered evidence that smart-meter schemes unveiled in other countries have proved a disaster, with complaints about soaring costs and an outcry over invasion of privacy. Experts have raised fears about complicated payments which could be difficult to understand. More than 1.3 million smart meters have already been installed in British households ahead of a national rollout next year, which aims to put them in every home by 2020. The smart-meter scheme will cost £11 billion to introduce — which homeowners will pay for through their bills. Officials claim it will lead to £17.9 billion of benefits as people will be more aware of how much energy they use and more likely to take steps to reduce consumption. DAILY MAIL

Shops pay charities only 10p a pack for Christmas cards sold
The consumer group Which? looked at 13 major retailers and supermarkets for their charity Christmas card offerings this year. At what appears to be the least generous end of the scale, the Co-op gives nearly 7% (10p) of its £1.50 cards to food poverty and food bank charity FareShare, while Lidl gives the equivalent of 8% (10p) of a pack price to children’s cancer charity CLIC Sargent. WH Smith donates 100% of the price of its BBC Children in Need charity cards, but for others which it sells, only 10% or 20% is donated. At the same time, Aldi and John Lewis branded cards donate 25% to the charities they support. John Lewis also sells a range of other charity cards where 10% is donated. However, Morrisons has pledged to donate £50,000 to the Sue Ryder chain of charity shops, regardless of how many packs of its charity cards are sold. Tesco is also selling a range of charity cards and donating a total of £300,000 to Diabetes UK and the British Heart Foundation. A Royal Mail spokesman said there was no sign that Britons intended to cut back on sending Christmas cards this year, despite the rise of e-cards and people choosing to make charitable donations directly. GUARDIAN

Crickhowell tax dodge protest: Residents of Welsh town going offshore to avoid tax, urging others to do the same
Residents of Crickhowell, the market town in Wales which is hoping to become the first UK community to go “offshore” for tax purposes, have released a video urging other places across the country to join their rebellion against HMRC. They have set up two offshore holding companies in preparation for the launch of the scheme, which is currently being scrutinised by HMRC, the video reveals. Their journey will be detailed in a forthcoming BBC documentary called The Town That Went Offshore. “Crickhowell has become the country’s first Fair Tax Town – a little piece of offshore in the heart of the Welsh countryside,” the video’s narrator says, adding that their campaign is based around the simple philosophy that “either we all pay tax, or none of us do”. The group have also launched a Fair Tax Town website, which encourages other communities to sign a pledge of support, allowing them to join the rebellion and brand their own town with personalised signs to show that they are backing the movement. “If the Government doesn’t act to close the tax loopholes, then we’re prepared to use them too, thanks very much. We’ll put our scheme in action and try it out,” the website says. “It might not work. We might get stopped. But it won’t stop us believing that either we all pay tax, or none of us do.” INDEPENDENT

Qatar's migrant workers say they are paid to fill stadiums before World Cup
At an evening match between Al Sadd and rivals Al Ahli last month, groups of “fans” told our reporter they had been paid about £5 to attend or had been given free tickets. They included several African security guards, who wore white robes they said helped them look more like Qataris. Indian construction workers said they had been paid chant football songs in Arabic they had been taught but did not understand. An entire end – about 1,000 spectators – comprised builders from south Asia. Musicians with drums and pipes had been hired to “create atmosphere”. “We are here for the money,” said Kumar, an Indian builder who had been bussed in from a labour camp. “They pay 30 riyals (£5) per match. They teach us the clapping actions and some songs. They think with the World Cup people will worry that there will be nobody to watch the matches so that is why they do this.” Michael, a security guard from Kenya, said: “They are looking for bodies because there is no one to come. The Qataris are not interested. Most are busy and they prefer to watch at home. We earn a minimum amount [in our day jobs] so if you get 30 extra riyals you can feed yourself better.” The migrant workers said their attendance at games was organised by middlemen who arranged bus transport from their dormitory camps and payments, which were normally made a day or two after the match. “I take 70 or 80 [workers] for a match and bring them by bus from the camps,” said a Sudanese agent. “I bring security guards and pay them 30 riyals.” He said he received about 60 riyals per “fan”. “It’s a good business,” he said. “I earn more than in my day job.” Qatar’s successful bid document for the 2022 tournament claimed the region was “brimming with sporting passion”. The World Cup preparations have been hit by allegations of bribery in the bidding process, strongly denied by Qatar, and outrage from human rights groups over the country’s treatment of migrant construction workers. GUARDIAN

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Tuesday, November 17, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:

SOURCE GUARDIAN: Qatar's migrant workers say they are paid to fill stadiums before World Cup
At an evening match between Al Sadd and rivals Al Ahli last month, groups of “fans” told our reporter they had been paid about £5 to attend or had been given free tickets. They included several African security guards, who wore white robes they said helped them look more like Qataris. Indian construction workers said they had been paid chant football songs in Arabic they had been taught but did not understand. An entire end – about 1,000 spectators – comprised builders from south Asia. Musicians with drums and pipes had been hired to “create atmosphere”. “We are here for the money,” said Kumar, an Indian builder who had been bussed in from a labour camp. “They pay 30 riyals (£5) per match. They teach us the clapping actions and some songs. They think with the World Cup people will worry that there will be nobody to watch the matches so that is why they do this.” Michael, a security guard from Kenya, said: “They are looking for bodies because there is no one to come. The Qataris are not interested. Most are busy and they prefer to watch at home. We earn a minimum amount [in our day jobs] so if you get 30 extra riyals you can feed yourself better.” The migrant workers said their attendance at games was organised by middlemen who arranged bus transport from their dormitory camps and payments, which were normally made a day or two after the match. “I take 70 or 80 [workers] for a match and bring them by bus from the camps,” said a Sudanese agent. “I bring security guards and pay them 30 riyals.” He said he received about 60 riyals per “fan”. “It’s a good business,” he said. “I earn more than in my day job.” Qatar’s successful bid document for the 2022 tournament claimed the region was “brimming with sporting passion”. The World Cup preparations have been hit by allegations of bribery in the bidding process, strongly denied by Qatar, and outrage from human rights groups over the country’s treatment of migrant construction workers.

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Friday, 13 November 2015

Friday, November 13, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , ,
KJ and Fee suspect he did...
SOURCE TELEGRAPH: David Cameron complains to his local council about cuts to services
David Cameron has become embroiled in a bizarre row with his local council after he complained about cuts to frontline services that it blames on the government slashing its budget. The Prime Minister wrote to Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth to say he is "disappointed" at proposed "cuts to frontline services, from elderly day centres, to libraries, to museums". Mr Cameron, who is the MP for Oxfordshire's Witney constituency, warned in a letter leaked to the local newspaper that the council should "move cautiously in setting out its budget plans" and that the government had not yet announced how much the council would receive in central government grants next year. He also advised that the council should sell off excess council property to help fund vital services. But Mr Hudspeth replied to remind the PM that he "worked hard to assist you in achieving a Conservative majority" and suggested that the cuts were needed as a result of government funding being slashed. Mr Cameron said that while there had been a "slight fall" in government grants much of the apparent cut-back was due to a re-allocation of school funding from local education authorities to academies. He said the council's spending power had actually increased by 1.3 per cent. Mr Hudspeth hit back by saying he would not describe the government's grant dropping from £194million in 2009/10 to just £122million this year as a "slight fall". The council leader said that the local authority had also reduced its staffing levels by 3,000 people since 2010. He added that Mr Cameron's suggestion to sell off land would be "neither legal, nor sustainable in the long-term since they are one-off receipts".

Thursday, 12 November 2015

Thursday, November 12, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Majority of top CBI companies do not pay living wage
British Airways and BP International are among the 15 corporate members of the 21-strong president’s committee of the CBI that are not designated as living wage employers. The research is based on the work of the Living Wage Foundation. The chancellor’s national living wage, dismissed by critics as a rebranding of the national minimum wage, is due to be introduced at a rate of £7.20 an hour from next April – way below the foundation’s own definition of an hourly living wage of £8.25. The CBI responded to the Guardian’s research on Friday by warning that “unaffordable mandated wage increases” put jobs at risk. The companies that are not accredited living wage employers include Airbus Group, BAE Systems, Capita, ExxonMobil, IBM (UK), Jaguar Land Rover, Shell, TSB Bank and Veolia Environmental Services. The six companies on the committee that do pay the living wage are Accenture, Centrica, HSBC, KPMG, the National Grid and Pearson. The Living Wage Foundation has a strict definition for a company to be designated as a living wage employer. A spokeswoman said: “Accredited living wage employers commit to paying both all of their directly employed staff as well as sub-contracted teams working on their premises, at least the living wage, and in the capital, the London living wage.” GUARDIAN

Germany widens VW diesel emissions investigation to include other brands
German car regulators are expanding their investigation into suspected diesel emissions manipulation beyond Volkswagen to more than 50 models from brands including BMW, Mercedes, Ford, Volvo, Nissan and Jaguar Land Rover. The Kraftfahrt-Bundesamt (KBA) regulator said it would run tests on models made by 23 German and foreign car brands on suspicion of further manipulation of nitrogen oxides emissions. KBA said the tests were triggered by Volkswagen’s admission it had rigged such tests but also cited “verified indications from third parties regarding unusual pollutants emissions“. The watchdog said it has been comparing readings in a test setting with those from portable meters in real-life tests and two-thirds of the measurements had already been taken. VW admitted in September to cheating tests for emissions of nitrogen oxides and the scandal widened with the company’s revelation last week that it had also understated carbon dioxide emissions. GUARDIAN

National Grid plays down fears of power crunch and blackouts
National Grid has faced criticism for allowing spare capacity to fall to 1.2%, down from a peak of 16.8% in 2011-12 and the lowest since 2005-06. The fall follows closures and reduction in output at a number of power stations. The first auction to encourage new capacity to fill the shortfall took place last December. The government expected a number of new gas-fired power stations to be built but most of the new capacity was provided by existing power stations with only 5% coming from a new plant. National Grid CEO, Steve Holliday, also announced plans to sell a majority stake in the company’s gas distribution business, which is said to be worth about £10bn. Holliday said the sale of the gas distribution business would leave National Grid with higher growth businesses to fund its dividend and investment though it will keep a “sensible” stake, likely to be at least 20%. Potential buyers could include foreign sovereign wealth funds and other infrastructure investors attracted by steady rates of return, he said. National Grid’s pre-tax profit for the six months to the end of September rose 21% to £1.37bn. It increased the interim dividend by 0.29p to 15p. GUARDIAN

David Cameron complains to his local council about cuts to services
David Cameron has become embroiled in a bizarre row with his local council after he complained about cuts to frontline services that it blames on the government slashing its budget. The Prime Minister wrote to Oxfordshire County Council leader Ian Hudspeth to say he is "disappointed" at proposed "cuts to frontline services, from elderly day centres, to libraries, to museums". Mr Cameron, who is the MP for Oxfordshire's Witney constituency, warned in a letter leaked to the local newspaper that the council should "move cautiously in setting out its budget plans" and that the government had not yet announced how much the council would receive in central government grants next year. He also advised that the council should sell off excess council property to help fund vital services. But Mr Hudspeth replied to remind the PM that he "worked hard to assist you in achieving a Conservative majority" and suggested that the cuts were needed as a result of government funding being slashed. Mr Cameron said that while there had been a "slight fall" in government grants much of the apparent cut-back was due to a re-allocation of school funding from local education authorities to academies. He said the council's spending power had actually increased by 1.3 per cent. Mr Hudspeth hit back by saying he would not describe the government's grant dropping from £194million in 2009/10 to just £122million this year as a "slight fall". The council leader said that the local authority had also reduced its staffing levels by 3,000 people since 2010. He added that Mr Cameron's suggestion to sell off land would be "neither legal, nor sustainable in the long-term since they are one-off receipts". TELEGRAPH

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Saturday, November 07, 2015 Posted by Jake 2 comments Labels: , , , , , , , , , , ,

Poverty is a matter of definition. Which means two of the ways of reducing poverty are:

1) Increase poor people's incomes

2) Change the definition of poverty 

The Tories were quick to notice that one of these poverty alleviation strategies is easier, quicker, and cheaper than the other. And were quick to start fiddling around with definitions.

In 2013 the UK government changed the definition of 'fuel poverty'. According to the CarbonBrief blog, that comments on Climate and Energy Policy:
"The Department of Energy and Climate Change (DECC) has changed the way it defines fuel poverty - seemingly lifting two million households out of it in the process. "


In 2015 Iain Duncan Smith confirmed plans to redefine Child Poverty. His ministry stated:
"The current child poverty measure – defined as 60% of median income – is considered to be deeply flawed and a poor test of whether children’s lives are genuinely improving.....The government will bring forward legislation to correct that with new measures focused on levels of work within a family and improvements in education attainment"

It's not just Poverty. Disability is another matter of definition. In 2013 the Tories 'cured' thousands of disabled people by redefining 'disabled'. Before you could claim certain disability benefits if you could not walk more than 50 metres. This was reduced to 20 metres, at the stroke of a pen converting all those medium distance 21-49 metre walkers from disabled to abled.

It's not just Poverty and Disability. In 2015 George Osborne put everyone, sort of, onto a 'living wage' by redefining the 'minimum wage' to the 'national living wage'. A wheeze that got IDS jumping for joy, if not those on minimum "national living" wages.



And it's not just Poverty, Disability, and Living Wages. You may have though 'Higher' and 'Lower' are pretty unambiguous. But in Conservative Britain you would be wrong. When the Tories boast about creating a "Low Tax, High Pay" economy, it escapes enough people for the Tories to win an election that low tax has meant higher tax, and high pay has meant lower pay. The Tories appear to have redefined "Higher" to mean "Lower", and "Lower" to mean "Higher":

a) "Low Tax" has meant taxes have actually been Higher each year since the Tories took Downing Street in 2010 (according to Adam Smith Institute figures). The Tories have not been cutting taxes, they have been hiding them. When announcing Tax Freedom Day (the number of days earnings it takes you to pay all your taxes) for 2015 the Director of the Adam Smith Institute, Eamonn Butler, said :
"The Treasury hates Tax Freedom Day, because they don’t want us to know how much tax we really pay. They prefer to conceal the tax burden through stealth taxes and indirect taxes that we don’t even realise we’re paying."

b) "High Pay" means the average pay of working people is still Lower than seven years ago, at the 2007/08 banker bust (from Office for National Statistics figures):




You can't really blame the Tories for taking the opportunity to pull the wool over voters eyes if voters are so easy to befuddle.

Actually, you can.

Tuesday, 3 November 2015

Tuesday, November 03, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Scotland introduces living wage for public contract bidders
The new statutory guidance for the public sector is part of the Scottish government's commitment to fair work procurement practices. They will also ban the exploitative use of zero hours contracts, and require companies to commit to giving workers an "active voice" in the workplace. Infrastructure Secretary Keith Brown said the guidance sees the government "nail its colours to the mast... Employers must now recognise - as many already do - that if you want to do business with the public sector in Scotland, you have to be a responsible employer and value your workers. You have to do your bit to make Scotland a fairer and more equal society." The Living Wage is an hourly rate set independently and updated annually by the Living Wage Foundation. It is more than a pound an hour higher than the current national minimum wage, which is currently set at £6.70 for over-21s. While the minimum wage is a legal requirement, the living wage is designed to reflect the actual cost of living and is paid voluntarily by some employers. The introduction of Scotland’s new guidance on public sector procurement was welcomed by trade unions. In July, Chancellor George Osborne announced plans to replace the lower minimum wage for over-25s with a new National Living Wage of £7.20 an hour from next April. The chancellor said he wanted the National Living Wage to rise to £9 by 2020. BBC NEWS

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

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

Construction fatalities force clamp down on London's 'billionaire basements'
The rise in “billionaire basements” – subterranean home extensions in some of London’s most expensive boroughs – is attracting fresh scrutiny amid concerns over a rise in fatalities and serious injuries. The Health and Safety Executive will look at properties in Kensington and Chelsea as well as Hammersmith and Fulham next week, as the government prepares to clamp down on unsafe practices. HSE reported 17 deaths of construction workers over the last 10 years as a result of collapsing excavations. There were 27 serious injuries over the same period. Last December, Conrad Sidebottom, a company director, was jailed for three years, after labourer Anghel Milosavlevici was crushed to death at a basement excavation in Fulham. Sidebottom and another man, Richard Golding, were convicted of failing to take reasonable care for Milosavlevici’s health and safety. Last year, Kensington and Chelsea won approval on new rules to restrict “dig-downs” to just one storey below ground level after complaints over multistorey extensions planned by wealthy residents. Buildings more than a century old have been fitted with swimming pools, cinema rooms, spas and tennis courts. In 2013, Chelsea Football Club owner Roman Abramovich was given the go-ahead for a £100m home in Chelsea, which included plans to excavate a two-storey basement. In 2012, after Christoph Stanger, the boss of Goldman Sachs, began to dig under his £7m property in Kensington Palace Gardens to create a children’s playroom, the house began to subside, pulling the facades of his neighbour’s houses down with it. GUARDIAN
Tuesday, November 03, 2015 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , , ,

SOURCE BBC NEWS: BMA refuses to re-enter contract talks
The British Medical Association said the contract was not safe or fair and accused ministers of putting out "misleading" claims. A ballot over industrial action is due to get under way on Thursday 5th November. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt had made a last ditch attempt to persuade them not to push ahead with the ballot. This included the promise of an 11% rise in basic pay, but the BMA said this was misleading as it was offset by curbs to other elements of the pay package, including unsociable hours payments. The BMA has claimed there are insufficient safeguards to stop hospitals over-working doctors and that some medics stand to lose up to 15% of their salaries. The union also said it could not return to talks unless the government lifted the threat to impose the new contract. It is due to start in August 2016. Scotland and Wales have said they do not want to introduce the changes, while Northern Ireland has yet to make a decision.

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