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Thursday, 10 March 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, March 10, 2016 with No comments | Labels:

UK workers on zero-hours contracts rises above 800,000
ONS statistician Nick Palmer said: “This latest figure is rather higher than the 697,000 people who said they were on these contracts in late 2014. Though at least some of this increase may be due to greater public recognition of the term zero-hours contract, there’s also nothing to suggest this form of employment is in decline.” On average, someone on a zero-hours contract usually worked 26 hours a week. About one in three people on a zero-hours contract wanted to work more hours, with most wanting them in their current job as opposed to a different job that offered more hours. In comparison, 10% of other people in employment wanted more hours, said the ONS. Research by the TUC shows that average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are £188, compared with £479 for permanent workers. The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Many people on zero-hours contracts are unable to plan for their future and regularly struggle with paying bills and having a decent family life... The European Union is proposing better rights for zero-hours workers – another reason why workers should be worried about the risks of Brexit.” GUARDIAN

Top headhunters admit pay for UK bosses is ‘absurdly high’
Britain’s chief executives are wildly overpaid, and there would be no negative impact on the economy if their salaries were slashed, a groundbreaking study of the country’s top headhunters reveals. The London School of Economics report is a damning indictment of the state of executive pay, and comes as an analysis by the High Pay Centre of FTSE 100 company accounts shows that the average pay package of a top CEO is now £4.6m a year. Interviews with the top 10 international recruitment firms behind 70-90% of chief executive appointments in recent years found a consensus among so-called corporate kingmakers that levels of remuneration for the most senior executives are “absurdly high”. Headhunters claimed that, for every appointment of a CEO, another 100 people could have filled the role just as ably, and that many chosen for top jobs were “mediocre”. The market for executive jobs, however, has become so distorted that it would amount to career suicide for a chief executive to indicate that he or she would be willing to work for less. The study’s authors write: “If one were to offer to do the job for less, would that tip the decision in his or her favour? All the headhunters agreed that this would be a poor strategy. “Indeed, it might be that asking for a larger remuneration would have a positive effect in securing the appointment.” GUARDIAN

London council launches low cost letting agency for private renters
Haringey council in north London said its online agency, Move 51⁰ North, was the first in the UK to offer private tenants an alternative to mainstream letting agents. Alan Strickland, Haringey’s cabinet member for housing and regeneration, said the agencies would “help stamp out rip-off fees and charges”. Research by Citizens Advice last year found that tenants were paying an average of £337 in charges, but that they varied hugely from agent to agent. Costs for checking references ranged from £6 to £300, while renters also facedcharges of between £15 and £300 for simply renewing their tenancies. Haringey council’s agency will charge tenants a fee of £180 to cover administration and £72 for credit checks. There are no renewal fees if they continue their tenancy beyond the original contract period. Landlords will be offered lettings and management services at the market rate, and access to the council’s maintenance services for repairs. GUARDIAN

Final report “a complete waste of time and taxpayers’ money” - UK watchdog accused of bowing to pressure from 'big six' energy suppliers
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) inquiry, launched in June 2014, was intended to clear up once and for all whether SSE, Iberdrola’s Scottish Power, British Gas-owner Centrica, RWE npower, E.ON and EDF Energy were abusing their control of the market. However, the regulator has retreated from more radical proposals amid ferocious lobbying from the energy sector. Opposition MPs, independent power companies and fuel poverty groups all warned the CMA review, now concluded, would do little to stop householders paying £1.7bn a year too much for their energy. The competition watchdog has called for a price cap on tariffs covering the four million households on prepayment meters and wants a customer database to be set up to make switching supplier more easy. But the CMA has not widened that safeguard cap to include those stuck on high-cost standard variable tariffs and wants to scrap a four-tariff limit established only recently by energy regulator Ofgem to make price comparisons easier. Earlier speculation that the big six would be broken up to separate their supply from their power generation arms was shelved by the CMA as a proposal last summer amid endless lobbying against it by the companies. GUARDIAN

Paddy Power's £280,000 penalty equal to three hours' trading
Bookmaker Paddy Power paid the donation to charity after the Gambling Commission ruled it had encouraged a problem gambler to keep betting until he lost five jobs, his home and access to his children. The man in question was a frequent user of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which have been described as the “crack cocaine” of gambling, allowing players to stake £100 every 20 seconds. But Paddy Power took less than three hours last year to bring in enough money to cover the £280,000 penalty donation. The penalty donation was also based on the firm’s failure to perform sufficient checks to ensure customers were not using its machines to launder the proceeds of crime. FOBTs are part of Paddy Power’s “machine gaming” division, whose revenues soared by 17% to £94m last year. The Gambling Commission’s powers include imposing a financial penalty on a company and revoking its licence to operate if it breaches the act. Its verdict on Paddy Power, however, resulted only in the “voluntary” £280,000 payment to a socially responsible cause and a promise to commission a review and “share learning” from the case with other firms. The company said it had enjoyed a “truly transformational” year in 2015, with pre-tax profit up 8% to £139m. Shareholders were rewarded with an 18% increase in the full-year dividend to £1.39 per share. GUARDIAN

£91m 'Houdini' bonus tax dodge: UBS and Deutsche Bank lose case
The banks had each tried to pay more than £91m of bonuses in the form of shares in an offshore company, established solely for the purpose of paying the awards. Through a combination of conditions attached to the shares plus a waiting period of two years, the banks hoped to cut the tax bill on the bonuses to 10pc, thus avoiding paying income tax and national insurance. But the banks' efforts to cut their bills were “the most sophisticated attempts of the Houdini taxpayer to escape from the manacles of tax”, Justice of the Supreme Court Lord Reed said. Prior to its defeat at the Supreme Court, UBS had won the case in the Upper Tier Tribunal and in the Court of Appeal. Deutsche Bank lost in its first hearing and so paid the tax, before winning in the Court of Appeal, and then losing this latest round. HMRC, which has been fighting the case for 12 years, said it intended to challenge similar arrangements at other businesses. Treasury minister David Gauke said foreign banks were welcome in the UK only if they played by the rules. TELEGRAPH

Criticism as £30-a-week disability benefit cuts go ahead
Peers have backed down in their battle with MPs over cuts to disabled people's benefits after ministers invoked special powers to push them through. The government was twice defeated in the House of Lords over a £30 a week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for certain claimants. But it is set to go ahead after peers deferred to the elected Commons. Ministers claimed "financial privilege" to assert the Commons' right to have the final say on budgetary measures. Ministers argue the changes will encourage people to get into work, but this is strongly disputed by opponents. The cuts in weekly support from £103 to £73, contained in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, will apply to new ESA claimants in the work-related activity group, bringing the rate into line with Jobseeker's Allowance. It will affect people who are deemed unable to work at the moment but capable of making some effort to find employment, including attending work-focused interviews and taking part in training. Disability rights campaigners Scope said the changes would have a "harmful impact" on half a million people. BBC NEWS

A third of £1m-plus homes paid for in cash since 2011
Analysis of Land Registry data from retirement lending advisory firm Bower Private Clients (BPC) is further evidence of the widening gap between the housing haves and have-nots. It says that more than 7,200 properties in this price bracket are being bought a year without a mortgage. Cash buyers have spent more than £63bn in total on £1m-plus homes in England and Wales since 2011, spending on average £1.75m for a property. In London, 22,852 properties costing £1m-plus have been bought for cash since 2011, and 7,864 elsewhere in the south-east. This compares with 641 in the north-west, 496 in the West Midlands and 239 in Yorkshire and Humberside. At the bottom of the table were Wales and the north-east, with 52 and 79 respectively. The analysis comes after a report from a high street lender predicted that the number of properties in Britain worth £1m or more would more than triple by 2030. Less than 500,000 homes in the UK are currently valued at £1m plus, but Santander said this would increase to more than 1.6m in the next 15 years. GUARDIAN

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