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Thursday, 7 January 2016

Thursday, January 07, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, January 07, 2016 with No comments | Labels:

Nurse shortage hits dangerous levels in 90% of hospitals
An analysis by the Health Service Journal (HSJ) of 232 hospitals in England found that 207, or 90%, were unable to meet safe levels during the day, while 81% could not hit targets for night cover and 79% missed both quotas. It marks a decline since January 2015, when 85% of hospitals were short-staffed during the day. Earlier this month the health service missed a series of key targets for A&E waiting times, cancer treatment and ambulance responses, leading experts to warn that the NHS would struggle to cope with the busy winter period. Separate research last week suggested nurses were under such pressure that they could not guarantee safe care for their patients. The Nursing Times survey of almost 1,000 nurses found eight out of 10 were under more stress at work than they were 12 months ago. More than half said they “rarely” or “never” had either sufficient staff or time to ensure safe care for patients, while a third said their ward or team was “always” short-staffed. The chief executive of the Royal College of Nursing, Janet Davies, said the health service was paying the price for previous cutbacks to the nurse training programme. “We went through a period of time when we were trying to save money, we cut posts, we didn’t train enough people and we are still feeling the effect of that,” she said. GUARDIAN

Revealed: how Tory cuts are wrecking UK flood defences
Many of Britain’s flood defences are being abandoned or maintained to minimal levels because of government cuts that could leave almost twice as many households at “significant risk” within 20 years, according to a leaked document submitted to ministers. The Association of Drainage Authorities (ADA), which represents a range of organisations responsible for managing water levels, says in the document: “We have had the five wettest years since 2000. The Environment Agency’s funding for maintaining flood assets has fallen by 14%. Downward adjustments have also been made to intended revenue spending commitments.” Councils had suffered budget cuts of more than 40% since 2010, leaving them with little or no option but to reduce or withhold funding to drainage boards, other organisations and landowners who managed river levels, the document suggests. Referring to the threat to more households as a result of cuts, the experts say: “Annual flood and storm damage costs are approximately £1.1bn, according to the Association of British Insurers, and those households at significant risk [of flood damage] through a reduction in our capacity to manage water levels could increase from 330,000 today to 570,000 in 2035.” It is further proof that ministers were being told before last month’s floods that cuts had left large parts of Britain in greater danger. After much of the north of England and Scotland endured misery over Christmas, ministers had admitted that flood defences were inadequate in many areas, but insisted that extreme weather was to blame, not government cuts. But the experts challenge this view, saying savage reductions to local authority funding had not only had a devastating effect on flood defences but may have added to costs in the long run because the result had been a far faster deterioration than would otherwise have occurred. GUARDIAN

UK commuters spend up to six times as much on rail fares as European passengers
Action for Rail, a campaign by rail unions and the TUC, said some UK workers were spending 13 per cent of their monthly wages on rail travel. By contrast, the average amount of salary going on a monthly season ticket for a similar journey is two per cent in Italy, three per cent in Spain and four per cent in Germany. In France, which is the closest to the UK for cost, commuters still spend nearly a third less on season tickets than their counterparts in the UK, said the report. A survey of more than 1,700 adults for the campaign group found that three out of five believed train services in the UK were poor value for money, with a similar number supporting public ownership.The research was published to highlight protests at more than 60 railway stations by campaigners and rail workers to mark the return to work after the festive break, with fares having increased at the weekend. Aslef general secretary Mick Whelan said: "Taking the railways back into public hands is a popular policy. The vast majority of voters - Conservative included - are fed up with paying sky-high fares so the privatised train companies can take their slice. Commuters travelling into London from Kent and Sussex know their £5,000 a year season tickets would be much cheaper under public ownership." Tickets this year rise by an average of 1.1 per cent in England, Wales and Scotland, affecting 1.7 billion rail journeys made in the UK each year. But the rise means fares have risen at three times the rate of wage pay packets since David Cameron was elected Prime Minister in 2010, according to an analysis by Labour. TELEGRAPH

Five of the largest banks paid no corporation tax in 2014, despite making billions of pounds in profits
JP Morgan, Bank of America Merrill Lynch, Deutsche Bank, Nomura Holdings and Morgan Stanley paid no corporation tax at all. The research into the financial reports found that seven banks, which also included Goldman Sachs and UBS, used tax benefits as well as losses generated during the banking crisis to reduce their corporation tax bills. Unlike some countries, the UK does not have a time limit restricting how long a company can hang on to past losses before using them. The seven banks paid a combined £20m in corporation tax in 2014, even though they had profits of £3.6bn on revenues of £21bn, the news agency said. The banks employed 33,000 staff. The ability of big banks to offset current profits against previous losses was reduced by the government in the 2014 Autumn Statement. In December 2014, Chancellor George Osborne said that the "amount of profit in established banks that can be offset by losses carried forward" would be limited to 50% of their profits in the 2015-16 tax year. Also, from January 2016 banks will have to pay an 8% surcharge on their profits. That is being introduced as an alternative to the Bank Levy on bank balance sheets - first introduced by George Osborne in January 2011 - which is now being cut back over the next six years. But banks were given better news in the 2015 Budget when Mr Osborne said corporation tax was to be cut to 19% in 2017 and 18% in 2020. BBC NEWS


Banking culture inquiry shelved by regulator FCA
The FCA had planned to look at whether pay, promotion or other incentives had contributed to scandals involving banks in the UK and abroad. The Treasury denies involvement in the decision - which some commentators have suggested was politically motivated. Banks around the world have faced huge fines from regulators for their involvement in numerous scandals. In May the news agency Reuters calculated that 20 global banks had paid £152bn in fines and compensation to customers since the 2008 financial crisis. The decision to drop the inquiry comes six months after FCA boss Martin Wheatley - who was originally hired because of his reputation as a tough regulator - was effectively sacked by Mr Osborne following two tumultuous years in the role. Many in the City had found Mr Wheatley's approach too combative and raised concerns about some of the language he used in reference to the banking industry. Percival Stanion, head of multi-asset strategies at Pictet Asset Management, also suggested that it was "no coincidence" that the investigation was being dropped at a time when HSBC was reviewing whether to keep its headquarters in London. HSBC has been a vocal critic of the bank levy, which Mr Osborne reduced in his summer budget following the general election. This will be seen by many as further evidence that regulators and the government have decided to take a softer line with the banks and bring the "banker bashing" era to a close. BBC NEWS

HSBC escapes action by City regulator following Swiss tax scandal
HSBC was engulfed in scandal a year ago when leaked bank account details showed how the bank’s Swiss unit helped wealthy customers to dodge taxes by concealing assets and handing out bundles of cash to avoid the authorities. At the time, the Financial Conduct Authority said it was looking at the working practices inside the bank after admitting it had learned about the details of the activities in the Swiss bank from the reports in the Guardian and other publications. However, the FCA has now concluded that review and will not take formal action against HSBC. Last year, the Geneva authorities instructed HSBC to pay a record 40m Swiss francs (£28m) for “organisational deficiencies”. But a month ago, Hervé Falciani, the IT expert who had leaked the evidence, was sentenced to five years in prison by a Swiss court for aggravated industrial espionage, data theft and violation of commercial and banking secrecy. Falciani was convicted in his absence and did not attend the trial. GUARDIAN

Ikea, Philips, GE and Osram are exaggerating energy performance of their lightbulbs
Leading firms are exaggerating energy performance by up to 25 per cent, tests by the Swedish Consumer Association show. A 28W Philips halogen bulb was found to be 24 per cent less bright than claimed, while Ikea’s 53W and 70W bulbs each underperformed by 16 per cent. The problem is that EU standards covering light bulb design include ‘tolerances’, which means they do not have to meet the exact claims made on the pack. A senior lighting industry executive said companies are effectively taking advantage of this to exaggerate energy efficiency claims. EU tests for bulbs allow for a 10 per cent tolerance threshold, meaning a bulb advertised as 600 lumens need in reality produce only 540 lumens. The industry source said a threshold of 2 to 3 per cent would be possible to achieve and would be fairer to consumers. The same tolerance regime for energy efficiency claims applies to other household products, including TVs, dishwashers, washing machines and fridges. As a result, the energy use claims for these may also be unreliable. The European Commission has been working on proposals to close the loophole since November 2012. However, reforms are not due until next year at the earliest. Viktor Sundberg, a vice-president at Electrolux, said tolerance loopholes should be closed on all products. The revelation has echoes of the Volkswagen scandal. In September the car giant admitted that it fiddled emissions tests to give the impression its vehicles were greener and less polluting than they are. DAILY MAIL

Amazon and eBay face crackdown over VAT fraud by overseas sellers
In recent months, record numbers of small overseas sellers have imported goods into Britain in advance of the Christmas rush, arranging for Amazon to dispatch the stock from its UK warehouses. Many of these VAT-free sellers give virtual office or residential addresses in China, Hong Kong and the US. Little is known about them by HM Revenue & Customs. Last month, eBay said it would report a number of sellers on its site to HMRC after the Guardian showed it evidence of Chinese traders giving invalid VAT numbers as well as sharing, or cloning, numbers belonging to other businesses. A Treasury spokesman told the House of Lords that HMRC had set up a taskforce to investigate VAT evasion by overseas internet sellers. Urgent meetings with senior figures at Amazon and eBay took place in November. Conservative peer Lord Lucas claimed Amazon and eBay had been “collaborating with hundreds of overseas retailers to defraud the taxman of millions of pounds every day”. The allegation is vehemently denied by both. The firms have insisted responsibility for charging the correct VAT lies with sellers using their sites. The number of small packages imported into Europe has more than quadrupled in 13 years, up from 26m in 2000 to 115m in 2013. Prices available on Amazon.co.uk are sometimes dramatically cheaper than those offered by high street retailers, which charge VAT. In other instances, small overseas sellers offer prices that match, or are close to, those available in stores, keeping the missing VAT. GUARDIAN

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