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Thursday, 14 April 2016

Thursday, April 14, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, April 14, 2016 with No comments | Labels:

£28 health checks: Boots staff under management pressure to milk the NHS for cash
Managers at Britain’s biggest pharmacy chain were found to be directing their chemists to provide medicine-use reviews (MUR) to customers who didn’t need them, in order to claim public money from the NHS. The NHS pays £28 for each MUR, which is carried out by a pharmacist and intended to give patients professional advice on health, diet and how best to manage their medicines. However, an investigation by the Guardian has found evidence that Boots managers are directing staff to carry out MURs on each other and on patients who don’t need them or can’t use them. To prevent any milking of the MUR system, the NHS limits each pharmacy to a maximum of 400. The Guardian has found evidence that Boots staff are being told to take that number as a target for individual stores to hit. An email from a senior manager for another region states: “I personally don’t want colleagues to feel ‘brow-beaten’ but we do need to deliver our targets of 400 MCUs [medicine check-ups – another name for MURs] per store this financial year for two reasons: Delivering 400 MCUs is a measure of Excellent Patient Care; The company can make £28 profit for each MCU, so each one we don’t deliver is a lost £28.” If a pharmacy carries out the maximum 400 MURs, it will earn £11,200. Assuming each Boots pharmacy churns out 400 MURs a year, that one NHS programme is worth an annual £30m to the company. Although it has tweaked the criteria for MURs, the cash-strapped NHS has no plans to scrap the system, claiming “they help relieve the pressure on GPs and accident and emergency departments, ensure optimal use of medicines, better value and better patient outcomes, and contribute to delivering seven-day health and care services”. GUARDIAN

Living standards fell in 2015, revised ONS figures show
Reviewing its figures, the ONS said that a previously announced 2.5% rise in real, inflation-adjusted incomes in 2015 - the biggest increase since 2001 - had been the result of estimates of the non-cash benefits households receive from being owner occupiers, like “imputed rentals”. Imputed rentals represent the value of housing services that owner occupiers derive from their homes, equal to the amount that they would have to pay in rent to achieve the same consumption of housing services. The ONS said: “Whilst this concept is important when measuring economic output, it is not expenditure directly observed by home owners.” Stripped of these so-called imputed rents and other elements that households would not recognise as income, the ONS said real living standards fell by 0.2% in 2015, following a 0.7% decline in 2014. This alternative method for calculating household incomes shows a more modest recovery since the deep slump of 2008-09. The ONS said living standards were 2.8% higher than their pre-recession peak in the first quarter of 2008, when inputed rents were included, but only 2.1% higher on a cash basis. The ONS’s chief economist, Joe Grice, said: “These new estimates help to tell the story of changing household incomes in a way which is closer to the actual experiences of households. “While the headline figures, containing imputed elements, are important for giving a coherent picture of the economy, these new figures shed light on how household incomes are changing in cash terms.” GUARDIAN

DWP fines “striving” low-paid full-time workers under trial of new benefits rule
The fines, part of a new and little-known “in-work conditionality” programme, were introduced by the then work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith. By May, in-work conditionality will have been imposed on 15,000 low-paid workers in a handful of trial areas across the UK. An evaluation of the trials is due in 2018. If UC rolls out as planned it is expected that around 1 million workers, many of them currently on tax credits, will be covered by the new regime by 2020. Helen Smith was docked £220 for missing a jobcentre appointment because she took a family holiday. The trip to Spain was booked before she was moved on to universal credit in 2015. Although she says she explained to officials why she could not make the meeting, the fine was still imposed. Smith, 36, of Widnes, says she has been in almost continuous employment since she left school. In another case, a UC claimant said he was fined £70 after his work shift meant he arrived late at a jobcentre appointment. Ministers have been widely criticised for imposing strict sanctions on people claiming unemployment benefit, dishing out millions of often arbitrary financial penalties in recent years for apparent breaches of jobcentre rules, despite there being no clear evidence that the fines helped those affected to get a job. Now similar penalties are being extended to thousands of people in work and in receipt of universal credit (UC). Experts have warned that the initiative risks blurring the government’s attempt to draw a clear political dividing line between so-called “hard-working families” and those caricatured as out-of-work “scroungers”, because it extends the negative connotations of welfare dependency to those who have a job. Anecdotal evidence is emerging from trials of the scheme that working claimants are angry at being subjected to tight jobcentre surveillance and sanctions. Some question the value of the job support provided and say sanctions are unfair because they have proved they are already motivated enough to work. GUARDIAN

London first time house buyers 'will need a £106,000 salary by 2020'
Homeless charity Shelter says the average deposit needed for a home in the capital will rise to an astonishing £138,000 over the next four years in order to keep pace with rocketing property prices. Their salary estimate is an increase of more than a quarter on current figures, which show Londoners need to make an average of £80,000 to get on the housing ladder. Shelter's research is based on current figures showing London house prices for first time buyers have risen six times faster than wages over the last five years, with Westminster having one of the biggest disparities. The price of the average home in the borough has grown by 67 per cent, while its residents’ average wages have actually fallen by 7 per cent to £42,798, their figures show. Boroughs including Lambeth, Greenwich, Newham and Merton have also seen house price increases massively outstrip their 1 per cent wage rises. Overall, house prices are increasing fifteen times faster than the average wage. Shelter's chief executive Campbell Robb said: “With the situation only set to get worse, Generation Rent will be forced to resign themselves to a life in expensive, unstable private renting, and wave goodbye to their dreams of a home to put down roots in. It doesn’t have to be like this. The next Mayor of London has the power to turn our housing crisis around, and with only weeks before Londoners go to the polling booth, the candidates must commit to investing in homes that people on ordinary incomes can actually afford and making renting more secure.” EVENING STANDARD

Panama Papers tax leak: EU to make big firms come clean on tax
Plans to force the largest companies to disclose more about their tax affairs have been unveiled by the European Union. The rules will affect multinational firms with more than €750m in sales. They will have to detail how much tax they pay in which EU countries as well as any activities carried out in specific tax havens. The plans come amid heightened scrutiny of the use of tax havens following the Panama Papers revelations. Country-by-country reporting rules already apply to banks, mining and forestry companies, according to an EU spokesperson. Under the new proposals, that would be expanded to cover companies accounting for about 90% of corporate revenues in the EU, they added. This proposal is bound to be controversial. The Commission's plan would oblige companies to report what they earn and how much tax they pay in EU countries. But it would also force them to reveal details of their tax affairs in "third countries which do not respect international tax good governance standards". In other words, secretive tax havens. BBC NEWS

BP shareholders reject chief Bob Dudley's £14m pay deal. But he can just ignore it
Just over 59% of investors rejected Mr Dudley's 20% increase, one of the largest rejections to date of a corporate pay deal in the UK. The vote is non-binding on BP, but earlier, chairman Carl-Henric Svanberg promised to review future pay terms. Mr Dudley received the rise despite BP's falling profits and job cuts. Corporate governance adviser Manifest estimated that it would be at least the fifth-largest vote in the UK against a boardroom remuneration deal. The Institute of Directors said: "British boards are now in the last chance saloon. If the will of shareholders in cases like this is ignored, it will only be a matter of time before the government introduces tougher regulations on executive pay." Shareholders that criticised the pay deals included Aberdeen Asset Management and Royal London Asset Management. Investor group Sharesoc branded the pay deal "simply too high", while Glass Lewis, ShareSoc, Pirc and Institutional Shareholder Services have also expressed their opposition. Earlier on Thursday, Ashley Hamilton Claxton, corporate governance manager at Royal London, told the BBC: "The executives received the maximum bonuses possible in a year when [BP] made a record loss, and to us that just does not translate into very good decision-making by the board... We think it sends the wrong message. It shows that the board is out of touch." Bosses at the US oil firms Exxon and Chevron got paid even more than Bob Dudley even though the value of their companies fell by more than BP. Many experts argue that Mr Dudley is merely earning the market rate for international executives. BBC NEWS

Executive pay up almost 6% according to thinktank analysis
Britain’s top bosses have continued to enjoy generous pay rises despite greater scrutiny of executive rewards, according to the latest data from the High Pay Centre. FTSE 100 companies that have reported pay deals so far this year have given their chief executives an aggregate 6% rise, figures from the thinktank showed. The average package was worth £5.6m. The calculation was based on the so-called “single figure” pay disclosure of 62 top flight companies that have published their pay reports for the 2015 financial year. The figure includes salary, bonus, long term incentives and pensions. Stefan Stern, director of the High Pay Centre, said: “The evidence, which is coming directly from companies’ own annual reports, is that the 20-year rising trend in top company pay continues unabated.” The average UK worker suffered from six years of falling wages in real terms from 2008 as inflation outpaced pay growth. Pay growth has since picked up, but is still below pre-crisis levels and has remained sluggish despite other signs of improvement in the UK jobs market, where employment is at a record high of 31.4 million. In the latest available official data, average weekly earnings for employees rose 2.1% in the three months to January compared with a year earlier. The TUC has warned that a full recovery in the value of wages is still years away, with average weekly earnings still worth £40 a week less than before the financial crash. GUARDIAN

Goldman Sachs to pay $5bn in US for its role in the 2008 financial crisis
This is only the latest multibillion-dollar civil settlement reached with a major bank over the economic meltdown in which millions of Americans lost their homes to foreclosure. Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley, which earlier this year agreed to pay $3.2bn, are two of the last big banks to pay up. Bank of America agreed to pay the largest of the settlements, $16.6bn, in 2014. A year earlier, JPMorgan Chase paid about $13bn. The Goldman Sachs settlement will consist of a $2.385bn civil monetary penalty, $875m in cash payments, and $1.8bn in consumer relief. Among other measures, the bank will offer a reduction in unpaid principal for affected homeowners and borrowers. The settlement, over the sale of mortgage-backed securities from 2005 to 2007, was first announced in January. The deal, however, includes no criminal sanctions or penalties and is likely to stir additional criticism about the Justice Department’s inability to hold bank executives personally responsible for the financial crisis. GUARDIAN

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