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Thursday, 11 February 2016

Thursday, February 11, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, February 11, 2016 with No comments | Labels:

Bank of England's recovery policies have increased inequality, finds S&P
A study by Standard & Poor’s has found that the low interest rates and quantitative easing used to rescue the economy after the 2008 crash have handed extra wealth to the richest households by propping up stock markets and supporting booming house prices. The report said the wealthiest 10% of households held 56% of all net financial assets in 2008. By 2014 the proportion of the nation’s wealth in the hands of this group had risen to 65%. Without government policies to restrict house price rises and promote greater equality, the report said the situation would only get worse. The finding in the report – “QE And Economic Inequality: The U.K. Experience – is likely to wound policymakers in Threadneedle Street who have repeatedly rebutted criticism that the Bank’s policies favoured the rich over the poor. “While unconventional monetary policy measures such as QE proved successful in restoring confidence and supporting the economic recovery, an unintended consequence has been to exacerbate wealth disparity between rich and poor,” said Tatiana Lysenko, senior economist at S&P. Under the QE programme, the Bank of England has spent £375bn buying government bonds from the banking sector to encourage investment in riskier assets. Officials hoped investors would direct investments into new technologies and assets that improved productivity. But most of the money has been invested in shares and property. Home ownership will likely drop in the coming decades, said the report, perpetuating high income and wealth inequality far into the future. GUARDIAN

Right To Buy puts 40% of ex-council homes in private rental, with higher rents - MPs' report
Forty per cent of ex-council flats sold through right to buy are being rented out more expensively by private landlords, the Commons communities and local government select committee has found. It also found that in some areas councils could be forced to sell up to 97% of properties upon vacancy. MPs expressed concern that the discount applied to starter homes could make them an attractive investment for those who can already afford to buy a home, as after five years owners will be allowed to sell at full market value. The true affordability of starter homes was also questioned. Lord Kerslake told the committee: “I think it is hard in London to see a property that requires a salary of £77,000 and a deposit of £90,000 as really meeting the definition of affordable.” Prioritising starter homes over affordable rent also has the potential to affect affordable housing levels, the committee stated, as housebuilders will seek to build homes with the highest possible returns. The committee called on the government to release annual statistics on how many new homes are built by each local authority, how many are sold under right to buy, and their tenure. Senior figures in the social housing sector have been critical of the decision to cut social rents by 1% a year, which will cost housing associations a lot of money. David Montague, chief executive of housing association L&Q, told the committee: “For L&Q, the annual loss by year four is almost £60m... For g15 [a group of London’s 15 largest housing associations], the annual loss by year four is £500m; for the sector, we estimate that the annual loss is £1.6bn. Imagine what we could have done with that money if we had borrowed against it. That is a lot of homes. We have lost a very significant amount.” GUARDIAN

Doctors training as specialists at all-time low, leaked figures show
Doctors’ leaders have described the figures as “very bad for the NHS”, especially as it is already struggling with shortages of key medical personnel in a number of areas, such as general practice and A&E. Figures compiled by Health Education England (HEE), the NHS’s medical training and education body, show that the number of Foundation Year 2 (F2) doctors who have applied to start training as a specialist in a branch of medicine next August in the NHS has fallen to just 15,855. That is 1,251 fewer than in 2013 – a 7.9% drop – and 453 fewer than the 16,308 who applied last year, a 2.8% decrease. The number of F2 doctors seeking to become family doctors has fallen particularly sharply. Only 4,863 such medics have applied to train as GPs from this August – 25% fewer than the 6,447 who did so as recently as 2013. That raises further questions about David Cameron and Hunt’s repeated pledge to increase the number of GPs in England by 5,000 by 2020. “To see such a large number of doctors junior considering their options and even leaving the NHS in the early stages of their careers is incredibly worrying,” said Dr Johann Malawana, the chair of the BMA’s junior doctors’ committee. “This will only worsen the recruitment crisis we are already seeing in many parts of the health service. GUARDIAN

David Cameron's mother signs anti-cuts petition
Mary Cameron, 81, has put her name to a campaign against plans by Conservative-run Oxfordshire County Council to close a number of the centres. Retired magistrate, Mrs Cameron, told the newspaper: "My name is on the petition but I don't want to discuss this any further." She reportedly signed the petition while visiting her son in Oxfordshire. Campaigners are trying to stop the closure of nearly all of Oxfordshire's 44 children's centres - the county council wants to keep eight hubs, to save £8m pounds. The petition describes the proposals as a "false economy", and says the early intervention services provide numerous economic and other long-term benefits. Campaign organiser Jill Huish said she was "not surprised" to have the Prime Minister's mother's endorsement. "It shows how deep austerity is cutting our most vulnerable when even David Cameron's mum has had enough," she said. The prime minister previously wrote to the local authority in his capacity as MP for Witney expressing "disappointment" at planned cuts to museums, libraries and day centres for the elderly. But council leader Ian Hudspeth hit back, saying the cuts were the result of reductions in funding from central government. Members of Unite employed in early intervention by Oxfordshire County Council will walk out on strike on February 16 after voting overwhelmingly for industrial action. BBC NEWS

Tory MP, on £74k a year, moves back in with his PARENTS because he can't afford deposit on a London house
William Wragg, 28, says he is part of the 'clipped wing generation' of graduates who are forced to go home to save a deposit. Mr Wragg, a former primary school teacher elected in 2015 to Hazel Grove, Greater Manchester, says the punishing cost of renting has left him without enough cash to buy a house. The Tory was born in Stockport, where he lives with mother Julie, 54, and father Peter, 55, in their suburban semi-detached home. A quarter of all adults aged between 20 and 34 in the UK - around 2.8milllion people - are still living with their parents. 'I'm extremely well paid, don't get me wrong. It is not wage related but I do need a few years at home to save a deposit... I know exactly what it is like. I have complete empathy with people in that position,” he said. Critics say his situation will embarrass his own party because it highlights the lack of affordable housing and high rents in the UK. The new MP is paid three times more than the average £26,000-a-year UK salary and can claim expenses for a constituency office and rent for a second home, either in London or his constituency. But politicians must always pay for their main home themselves after MPs fiddled their expenses by 'flipping' properties bankrolled by the taxpayer. DAILY MAIL

Payday lenders hit by changing views, Church says
A "sea change in public and political opinion" about payday lenders has brought falls in use of these loans, a Church taskforce has concluded. The report highlighted that payday lending had fallen by 68% from 2013. Archbishop Justin Welby created the taskforce, led by former regulator Sir Hector Sants, to promote responsible credit and savings which, after two years of work, has now published its final report. Since 2013 the membership of credit unions had grown by 13%, with 123,000 new members in Britain. The taskforce's report highlighted work to create a credit union for Church staff, financial advice in churches, and savings clubs in schools. "Although there are many other influences beside the Church, the Archbishop of Canterbury's intervention has undoubtedly helped to galvanise broader awareness of, and support for, credit unions from churches and wider society and contributed to a sea change in public and political opinion around payday lending," the report said. In 2013, the Archbishop of Canterbury told online lender Wonga that the Church would try to force it out of business by helping credit unions. But it emerged that the Church of England had indirectly invested £75,000 in the company. The Church ended its ties with Wonga in 2014. BBC NEWS

Growing teacher shortages as Government misses recruitment targets
Despite spending £700 million a year on recruiting and training new teachers, the Government has missed its recruitment targets for the last four years, according to a new report from the National Audit Office (NAO). Between 2011 and 2014 the number of teachers leaving the profession increased by 11 per cent. Secondary schoolteacher training places were the hardest to fill, with 14 out of 17 secondary subjects with unfilled training places in 2015/16 compared with just two subjects with unfilled places in 2010/11. Furthermore, there has been a rise in the number of classes being taught in secondary schools by teachers without a relevant post-A-level qualification. Citing physics as an example, the NAO revealed that the proportion of classes taught by a teacher without a qualification in the subject rose from 21 per cent to 28 per cent in the four years to 2014. The report accused the Department of Education (DfE) of having a "weak understanding of the extent of local teacher supply shortages" with particular problems in disadvantaged areas of the country. TELEGRAPH

US fashion giant Gap embroiled in British tax bill row
The multinational retailer, which trades on its wholesome West Coast image, has paid almost no corporation tax — once rebates are taken into account — since 2011 despite sales of more than £1 billion, according to a new analysis of its “opaque” accounts. Gap, founded in San Francisco in 1969, is one of the most familiar presences on the high street with 132 stores and turnover of more than  £300 million a year. It also owns Banana Republic, which has eight UK outlets. However, accounts reveal the three British-based Gap companies made net losses between 2012 and last year — allowing the world’s third biggest fashion retailer to reclaim more than £4.2 million from the taxman and set it against future profits. The accounts suggest Gap has been shuffling profits between the businesses and to the parent company in San Francisco. This strategy, although entirely legal, has reduced its potential liability to HM Revenue and Customs. The disclosures will add to pressure on Chancellor George Osborne to close loopholes that allow vast corporations to pay virtually no tax in Britain despite having huge sales. It follows the huge row last month after it emerged that Google has struck a “sweetheart” deal with British tax authorities to pay £130 million in back taxes covering 10 years. Starbucks was found to be paying a fee to itself in the Netherlands which avoided making a profit in Britain, while buying coffee beans via a Swiss subsidiary. EVENING STANDARD

EU proposals will force multinationals to disclose tax arrangements
US multinationals such as Google, Facebook and Amazon will be forced to publicly disclose their earnings and tax bills in Europe, under legislation being drafted by the EU executive. The European commission is to table legislation in early April aimed at making the world’s largest multinational corporations open their tax arrangements with EU governments to full public scrutiny. According to three senior EU officials familiar with the proposals, initial conclusions from an ongoing impact assessment have found in favour of obliging large corporations to reveal their profits and the tax they pay in every country in which they operate within the EU. Public country-by-country reporting is seen as important because without it large companies are more able to make secretive deals with governments on where and how they declare their profits. The commission was heavily criticised last month when it proposed that corporations report only to national tax authorities in Europe without making the information public. But there have been some successes. The competition commissioner, Margrethe Vestager, has already found Starbucks in the Netherlands and Fiat in Luxembourg culpable of tax avoidance and ordered them to pay €30m (£23m) each in unpaid taxes. Last month she also ordered 35 multinationals in Belgium to pay €700m in dodged taxes. Similar investigations are ongoing into Apple in Ireland and Amazon in Luxembourg. GUARDIAN

French law forbids food waste by supermarkets
France has become the first country in the world to ban supermarkets from throwing away or destroying unsold food, forcing them instead to donate it to charities and food banks. Under a law passed unanimously by the French senate, large shops will no longer bin good quality food approaching its best-before date. Charities will be able to give out millions more free meals each year to people struggling to afford to eat. The law follows a grassroots campaign in France by shoppers, anti-poverty campaigners and those opposed to food waste. The campaign, which led to a petition, was started by the councillor Arash Derambarsh. In December a bill on the issue passed through the national assembly, having been introduced by the former food industry minister Guillaume Garot. Campaigners now hope to persuade the EU to adopt similar legislation across member states. The law has been welcomed by food banks, which will now begin the task of finding the extra volunteers, lorries, warehouse and fridge space to deal with an increase in donations from shops and food companies. In recent years, growing numbers of families, students, unemployed and homeless people in France have been foraging in supermarket bins at night to feed themselves. People have been finding edible products thrown out just as their best-before dates approached. Carrefour, France’s biggest supermarket group, said it welcomed the law, which would build on food donations its supermarkets already made. Of the 7.1m tonnes of food wasted in France annually, 67% is binned by consumers, 15% by restaurants and 11% by shops. Each year 1.3bn tonnes of food are wasted worldwide. A report published in 2015 showed that UK households threw away 7m tonnes of food in 2012, enough to fill London’s Wembley stadium nine times over. Avoidable household food waste in the UK is associated with 17m tonnes of CO2 emissions annually. GUARDIAN

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