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Thursday, 24 March 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, March 24, 2016 with No comments | Labels:

IFS backs Duncan Smith: latest budget preserves income of wealthier households, while poorest could lose 12% of their income by 2019
Iain Duncan Smith resigned as the work and pensions secretary on Friday, accusing chancellor George Osborne of delivering a “deeply unfair” budget that inflicted substantial reductions in disability benefits while offering tax cuts for the most affluent. Sustained benefit cuts will result in many households in the bottom 20% of earners losing up to 12% of their income by 2019, according to a report published on Monday by the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). Meanwhile, households in the top half of income brackets will be no worse off and even the poorest pensioners will be 2% in the red at most. Paul Johnson, the director of the IFS, said: “Raising the threshold for paying higher-rate tax is clearly helping people in the middle- and upper-income brackets, while the cuts to benefits reduce the incomes of families on lower incomes.” He highlighted the switch from tax credits to universal credit as a major blow to working households at the bottom of the income scale. “Once universal credit is in place, the benefit system is much less generous,” he said. A chart in the report illustrating the impact of tax and benefit changes until the end of the current parliament shows the lowest 10% of households with children losing almost 10% of their income, while the next band lose more than 12%. The poorest 10% of pensioners lose 2% of their income; pensioners in the top 20% of earners gain or avoid losing any income at all. GUARDIAN

Only one in 10 homes sold under right to buy are replaced in England
In April 2012, the government relaunched the right to buy scheme and tenants in London now get discounts of up to £103,900, while those outside the capital can buy their property at up to £77,900 below market price. But sccording to the latest data by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), there have been 49,573 sales since the scheme was relaunched, while 4,594 have been started on site or acquired by councils. Currently the right to buy is for tenants of council-owned homes and those that have been transferred to other organisations with a “preserved” right to buy. Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “This will not only make an impossible situation even worse, it’s also a terrible response to our housing crisis... Before the election, the government was happy to suggest that it would replace every home sold off under right to buy one for one. Now, it is rowing back from this by not replacing the homes sold off, with the homes it is building often only affordable for higher earners.” GUARDIAN

'We’re too busy to chase offshore cash': Taxman to miss £1bn evasion target by £780m
A clampdown on tax evaders who have salted cash away offshore will fail to hit its target of more than £1 billion because of a lack of resources at the tax office, the Government’s own budget watchdog has admitted. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said the measures to collect tax from dodgers who had funnelled cash into havens such as Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man would raise just £270 million rather than the £1.05 billion which had been trumpeted – a £780 million shortfall. The alert was buried in the fine details of the OBR’s 260-page report on last week’s Budget. It stated: ‘HM Revenue & Customs is less optimistic about how much of the lost yield can be recouped through additional compliance activity, on the basis that they are unlikely to be able to work the higher number of additional cases on top of existing workloads.’ In 2013 the Government announced an amnesty for tax dodgers using offshore tax havens and at the same time it warned that it would be vigorously pursuing those who did not hold their hands up voluntarily. The number of tax dodgers coming forward on a voluntary basis was lower than HMRC had expected and last year it claimed that it would recoup the shortfall by hammering those who were trying to evade detection. Tax barrister and QC Jolyon Maugham told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The wealthy are escaping the consequences of tax evasion because HMRC cannot pursue the cases. The idea of an amnesty is that you front up now and avoid the bad consequences later. This OBR report reveals that the equation is now: front up now but if you don’t there’s not much we can do.’ The admission that HMRC is too stretched to chase tax evaders will fuel criticisms that while the Government has talked tough on tax avoidance and evasion, its austerity programme is in reality hampering tax collection. The report from the OBR also reveals that the so-called Google Tax – a levy on company profits that are routed via ‘contrived arrangements’ to tax havens – is set to generate just one-third of the receipts that the Treasury had expected. DAILY MAIL

'They’ve gone bonkers': Tory councillors angry with plans to convert all schools to academies
Leading Tory councillors across the country, dismayed by key elements of the education white paper outlined by the government last week, are calling on education secretary Nicky Morgan to rethink her policy of compulsory academisation for all schools. Their concerns echo those of many teachers and parents, who took part in rallies in London and many other towns and cities on Wednesday, to protest against the government’s forced academy programme. The government’s white paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, says all schools that have not begun to convert to academy status by 2020 will be directed to do so under new powers. Councils will lose responsibility for the remaining maintained schools, the majority of which will be expected to join multi-academy trusts, regardless of performance. Melinda Tilley, cabinet member for education for Oxfordshire county council, which covers the prime minister’s Witney constituency, said: “If it’s not broke don’t fix it. I don’t think schools should be forced. We’ve been supportive of the government’s agenda. We were going along quite well, helping schools to convert where we could. Now all of a sudden they are going to force the rest of them. It makes my blood boil. I’m put in a position where I can’t protect schools. One size does not fit all.” GUARDIAN

Fantasy Farms: Tesco launches range of products named after farms that don't actually exist
Tesco has launched seven branded product lines names after farms that do not exist. Willow Farms whole chicken, Boswell Farms diced beef, and Rosedene Farms blueberries were all found to come from manufacturers with no relation to the names on the packaging of the final product. Some of the foods were imported from overseas and given British names to make them sound local. Farmers Weekly, a trade magazine, did a spot check at Acre Lane Tesco in Brixton and recorded the origins of products that had been given British-sounding farm names. Examples include Rosedene Farms – apples (UK), pears (Belgium), strawberries (Spain), blueberries (Chile); Nightingale Farms – celery (Spain), cherry tomatoes (Spain, Morocco); Woodside Farms – pigmeat products (UK, Holland, Denmark, Germany, “EU”). Only Boswell chicken was found to be 100 per cent British and featured a Union Jack prominently on the label to signal this to consumers. Advertising agencies say that British sounding names and rural, historic or nature references are reassuring to shoppers. Tesco is not the only store to use made up farm names on its products. The Guardian reports that Aldi does so too. The Independent has contacted Aldi for comment. INDEPENDENT

What the Dickensian!! Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley refuses to appear before committee investigating pay and working conditions
The riposte, in which the billionaire called the parliamentarians “a joke”, is the latest instalment in an increasingly bitter battle between Ashley and the Commons’ business, innovation and skills (BIS) committee, which took the unusual step of issuing a summons to the Newcastle United owner last week. The inquiry by the committee, which has threatened Ashley with being in contempt of parliament if he fails to attend a hearing on 7 June, follows a Guardian investigation last year that found workers at the sportswear group’s Shirebrook warehouse were receiving, in effect, rates of pay below the minimum wage. Undercover reporters employed at the Derbyshire facility discovered thousands of workers were subjected to an extraordinary regime of searches and surveillance, while local primary schoolteachers told the Guardian pupils would remain in school while ill – and return home to empty houses – as parents working at the depot were too frightened to take time off work. The disclosures prompted the Institute of Directors to brand the company a “scar on British business” and former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna to file an urgent parliamentary question, which resulted in the business minister, Nick Boles, being summoned to the Commons to answer questions on the scandal. During the debate, a succession of MPs called for HM Revenue and Customs to investigate if the company had breached minimum wage legislation. Sports Direct responded by announcing a pay rise for its staff, as well as a review of all agency workers’ terms and conditions. GUARDIAN

Pop-up village in south-east London to house homeless families
A council in south-east London has created what it describes as “the UK’s first pop-up village” to house families who are forced to live in B&Bs in other parts of the capital. Rapidly rising property prices and rents, combined with the loss of social housing through right to buy, have put councils under growing pressure to find new ways to help people off their housing lists. In Lewisham one solution is a £4.3m scheme to provide 24 homes and 880 sq m of business space that can be picked up and moved at a later date, allowing the council to make use of vacant brownfield land while longer-term projects are finalised. With the planning process notoriously complicated and long, the local council decided to put the area to use for temporary homes. Just over a year after planning was granted for the temporary village, the cluster of two-bedroom flats is almost complete and the first tenants should move in in June. House prices in the borough have risen by 15% over the past year, according to the Land Registry, reaching an average of £447,291. Rents are also high: last year the average cost for a two-bedroom flat was £1,312 a month. The factory-built flats arrived on the site late last year, each home coming in two pieces: one is the living area with all of the services and kitchen built in, the second provides the bedrooms. The homes have been designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the architects behind the YMCA’s Y:Cube – individual units for single people in need of housing. “Our only constraint is the volume you can get on the back of a truck and get round the country,” said Ivan Harbour. The architects have pushed things to the limit, building homes that are bigger than the London space standards, with high ceilings that Harbour said “have the scale of the ground floor of a Victorian house”. The flats are well insulated and will cost just £10 a month to heat in winter months. They have a lifespan of 60 years and can be moved several times in that period and configured however the council needs them to be. GUARDIAN

Credit Suisse announces 2,000 job cuts after bankers hid risky trades from new boss
CEO Tidjane Thiam said some employees in the beleaguered bank’s markets division had concealed perilous bets from senior management in the run-up to a cost-cutting drive in October. It meant the investment loss the bank had assumed it made could have been far greater. In an astonishing admission, he told Bloomberg: ‘This wasn’t clear to me, it wasn’t clear to my chief financial officer, it wasn’t clear to many people inside the bank... A lot of the problems in the investment bank are that people have been trying to generate revenue at all costs... That’s why I said there needs to be a cultural change, because it’s completely unacceptable.’ Staff bonuses for 2015 have been slashed by 36 per cent and Thiam himself has asked for a 40 per cent bonus cut. About 35,400 UK banking jobs have been axed since 2009 and analysts warned the picture remained bleak. Laith Khalaf of Hargreaves Lansdown said: ‘A lot of banks are trying to remove some of the riskier areas of their business because they’re being more heavily penalised by regulators.’ DAILY MAIL

Budget watchdog predicts interest rates will FALL below 0.5% record low for some of the next two years
The Government has based its economic forecasts on a cut in interest rates from the record low of 0.5 per cent. The Office for Budget Responsibility said the outlook for rates in the UK had changed ‘significantly’ in recent months. ‘Our forecast is consistent with Bank rate being reduced below 0.5 per cent for some of the next two years,’ the OBR said in a report published alongside the Budget. The OBR added that rates are not expected to reach 0.75 per cent until 2019 – a full decade after the Bank of England cut rates to 0.5 per cent. The outlook for rates has changed dramatically in recent months. In July last year, Governor Mark Carney said the decision over to when to raise interest rates ‘will likely come into sharper relief around the turn of this year’. But he recently said rates could be cut ‘towards zero’ if the economy needs extra support. DAILY MAIL

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