Thursday 21 April 2016

Thursday, April 21, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, April 21, 2016 with No comments | Labels:

Tory MPs queue up to batter their own government's forced academies plan
A dozen rebels turned publicly on David Cameron for forcing all schools to become academies by 2020. It made an embarrassing spectacle in the House of Commons - where Tory MPs joined a Labour campaign against the "rushed" and "flawed" plan. The Prime Minister still won the day after nearly 300 of his MPs blocked Labour's bid to put the scheme on hold. But it was not before he was humiliated by his own backbenchers, who raised worry after worry about the plan. The government announced the plan last month , completing the loss of council control over schools which began under Labour and was expanded massively under the Tories. Tory MP Stewart Jackson kicked off the row by warning the plan by Education Secretary Nicky Morgan was "rushed, ill-thought out and flawed". Colchester MP Will Quince, whose wife is a primary school teacher, fumed: "There is no evidence that academies are somehow automatically better than state-maintained schools... Call me old-fashioned but I hold the view that if you've got a well-governed, well-run school that's performing well, just leave it alone and let it do its job." Newbury MP Richard Benyon questioned how small, rural primary schools would have the resources to make the change. South Suffolk Tory James Cartlidge said he had visited a local primary school which was "outstanding in every sense of the word" and did not want to become an academy. South Dorset MP Richard Drax said the "one cap fits all" theory "always makes me nervous". Colne Valley MP Jason McCartney said: "I'm a Conservative because I believe in choice. We should put our trust in parents and governing bodies." MIRROR

Osborne warns firms not to cut perks on back of National Living Wage: John Lewis, Tesco, B&Q, Caffe Nero etc.
Many firms have cut overtime pay rates or benefits such as free lunches to fund the rise in basic pay rates. But companies which cut staff perks to compensate for the higher cost of the new minimum wage should be mindful of the risk to their reputation, chancellor George Osborne has warned. "It's not the spirit of the law. Companies should be much more careful about their reputation," he told ITV. The £7.20 hourly rate for workers aged 25 and over came into effect in April. Mr Osborne's warning comes after a debate in the Commons on Monday on the impact of the 50p hourly increase in the National Living Wage (NLW), said profitable firms trying to "evade the spirit" of the new laws would face government pressure. A motion warning the wage changes have left thousands of low-paid workers "significantly worse off" and calling on the government to ensure they are protected was passed unopposed. DIY chain B&Q, supermarket Tesco, coffee chain Caffe Nero and the John Lewis Partnership have all recently reduced some staff payments or perks, but most have said the moves were unrelated to the 50p-an-hour increase in the National Living Wage (NLW). In April, Caffe Nero said it would no longer give its staff a free lunch when they are on shift, as part of a "pay review" introduced in response to the new National Living Wage. The John Lewis Partnership - which includes supermarket chain Waitrose - said it stopped so-called premium payments - higher hourly rates for overtime or Sunday working - from 1 February for new workers after realising competitors did not offer the same deal. "Premium payments are not a feature of the market," a spokeswoman for the group told the BBC. She said the decision was announced in September last year and was unrelated to the introduction of the NLW. She also said Waitrose average hourly pay rate, outside London, was above the NLW at £7.80. BBC NEWS

Plans to stop collecting data on wealthiest 1% in UK is criticised by IFS
Proposals by the UK government to stop collecting information showing how the wealthy pass on their assets from one generation to another have been condemned by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), a leading tax and spending thinktank. The IFS said Britain was in danger of allowing a misleading picture to emerge of its richest families. The change would underestimate the wealth of the top 1%, whose wealth is at least £1.4m including the value of their home. The IFS said calculations that failed to include the often complex web of trusts and jointly owned properties that the richest families use to avoid capital gains and inheritance tax would depress the overall measure of wealth. It said that in 2005 the under-recording and differences in valuation of inherited estates increased the total from £3.4n to £4tn. The inclusion of family trusts, jointly owned properties and small properties, which the IFS said were excluded from the standard published data, raised the total to £5tn – 46% higher than the total initially identified by officials. A special issue of the IFS journal Fiscal Studies argues that the accumulation of wealth by the top 1% has meant the “younger generations are on course to have less wealth at each point in life than earlier generations”. Adding to a welter of analysis that points to wealth – rather than incomes – providing the biggest split in society, it said inheritances will do little to even out the spread of wealth, leaving younger people from poorer families unable to acquire assets already in the hands of the top 1%. GUARDIAN

Anti-austerity protest: Tens of thousands march in central London against Government cuts
The 50,000 strong march began near to the University of Central London and weaved its way through the streets for a rally in Trafalgar Square. Slogans such as “Cameron Must Go - Tories Out!” and demands for decent health, homes, jobs and education were brandished in the protest organised by the People's Assembly. Kicking off the demo, the National Health Singers sang a song, which included lines of "don't let our junior docs be worked around the clock", and "help us keep you safe, don't take our rights away". Labour's shadow chancellor John McDonnell, Unite general secretary Len McCluskey, NUT general secretary Christine Blower and Green Party leader Natalie Bennett also joined the demonstration. Gary Manning, 42, from Carmarthenshire, donned a pig mask for the march, saying he wore it because it represents the elitism of people like George Osborne and David Cameron. His 13-year-old daughter Catrin, who chose to accompany to him to the march, said: "I'm here because the Tories are raising tax and I don't think it is fair when all the British people have to pay and the rich don't." More than 100 coaches filled with demonstrators arrived in the capital from around the UK - with thousands of others attending through their associated unions or groups. EVENING STANDARD

Parents face 10,000 shortfall in primary places in the next four years
Last year, one in five students missed out on their chosen school, and new figures show that by 2019-2020, there will be more pupils than places in the south east, the north and the midlands. The Department for Education claims that free schools - independent institutions that were introduced under the Coalition - will make up the numbers, and denies there is any shortfall. The official number of places needed was confirmed by the Department for Education, but Labour accused the Government of covering up the true extent of the crisis, suggesting the shortfall may be as high as 85,000. Local authorities have a duty to provide school places, but the Government's plan to force all schools to become academies - independent from council control - makes the job all the more challenging. And critics claim that many of the free schools planned are not in the areas of most need. The data shows that Bexley, Greenwich, Richmond upon Thames, Sutton and Slough in the south east, Bolton, Manchester, Oldham and Leeds in the north, and Leicester, Birmingham and Walsall in the Midlands, face the biggest shortfalls. DAILY MAIL

Scottish Power warranty was a £75m fraud, say MPs
A Scottish Power warranty scheme that allegedly failed to pay out £75m to hundreds of thousands of customers was "effectively a fraud on the public", according to a report by MPs. The PowerPlan  offer sold to 625,000 people across the UK was "neither financially capable of functioning, nor designed to deliver", the cross-party group said. Customers who bought white goods up to the early 2000s were promised a refund if they didn't claim within five years. Many customers were left without refunds after the stores and ScottishPower's insurance arm, Domestic Appliance Insurance Limited, were sold to Powerhouse, which subsequently went into administration. The MPs are now calling for a formal Select Committee hearing "so that ScottishPower executives can be called to account for their actions before Parliament, opening the way to achieving some form of justice, including compensation, for those consumers who are affected". The APPG chairman Andrew Percy said: "We have been shocked by the complete lack of uptake by regulators and authorities to date, and I expect this report to make them sit up and take notice”. Scottish Power denies any wrongdoing. BBC NEWS

Incredible shrinking toilet paper: Which? names six products that quietly got smaller, while you paid more
according to research from consumer group Which? you now get 30g less of McVitie's dark chocolate digestives, but pay ten pence more at Tesco. Tropicana drinks are 15 per cent less full if you're buying its Pure Premiums orange and raspberry juice, which shrank from one litre to 850ml, but remained the same price in Asda. Those handy Dettol cleaning wipes come with four fewer per pack if you're buying the Power and Pure Bathroom ones. At Tesco you'll still pay the same, and at Ocado, three pence more though. The amount of Sensodyne's Total Care Extra Fresh you get in the tube shrank by a quarter. The pre-cut price was £3.60, but was then £3.49, increasing the price per 100ml. Fans of Percol's fairtrade Guatemalan coffee get 27g less, and while the price went down in Sainsbury's and Waitrose, it was not enough to reflect the cut and per 100g, it's now more expensive. And finally, don't be distracted by that cute Andrex puppy. A standard four pack now has 19 fewer sheets, but has remained at around the £2 mark. Meanwhile, if you like your toilet paper to have picture of puppies printed right on there, Andrex's "Puppies and Roll" has lost 31 sheets in the last decade. “Shrinking products can be a sneaky way of increasing prices. We want manufacturers and supermarkets to be upfront about shrinking products so consumers aren’t misled," said Which? editor Richard Headland. The group contacted the brands, which said it was down to the supermarkets to set prices, but they did not disclose if there were a change to wholesale prices. CITY AM

HMRC still not doing enough to tackle tax fraud, say MPs
Members of the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said taxpayers were missing out on £16bn a year, as a result of evasion and criminal activity. HMRC needed to increase the number of investigations, and prosecute more wealthy tax evaders. HMRC revealed it had 26,000 staff focusing on tax evasion, avoidance and fraud, out of its total staff of 56,000. But it told the MPs that it did not know how many had been successfully prosecuted. In addition, only one person was prosecuted after a former HSBC employee called Herve Falciani leaked a list of potential tax evaders with Swiss bank accounts in 2015. The MPs said that created the impression that the rich can get away with tax fraud. HMRC's estimate of the tax gap breaks down into £26bn not paid by businesses large and small, £6bn attributable to criminals, many operating in the black economy, and just under £3bn which individuals should have stumped up. That explains why only a small proportion of the 26,000 specialist investigators are assigned to chasing individuals: HMRC said it investigates around 35 wealthy individuals for tax evasion each year. HMRC now names and shames deliberate tax defaulters by publishing a regular list of offenders. But look at the characters on the list and you will see that they are small business people including restaurant owners, fishermen, newsagents and car traders, not the sort who have Swiss bank accounts. Critics say that while this approach might be convenient for HMRC, it sends out entirely the wrong message, that they are keener to nab the small fry than to home in on the rich who might wriggle out of tax. As a result of extra funding given to it in the Summer 2015 budget, HMRC said it now hoped to investigate 100 companies and wealthy individuals each year by 2020. BBC NEWS

Mitsubishi admits falsifying vehicle emissions data
Mitsubishi Motors admitted it had falsified fuel economy test data to make emissions levels look more favourable, sending shares in the Japanese car company tumbling more than 15pc, wiping $1.2bn from its market value. Tetsuro Aikawa, president of Japan's sixth-largest automaker by market value, bowed in apology at a news conference in Tokyo for what is the biggest scandal at Mitsubishi since a defect cover-up over a decade ago. The problem was reportedly found after its customer Nissan pointed out inconsistencies in data. "The wrongdoing was intentional. It is clear the falsification was done to make the mileage look better. But why they would resort to fraud to do this is still unclear," Mr Aikawa said. He said that although he was unaware the irregularities were happening, "I feel responsible". In 2000, Mitsubishi revealed that it covered up safety records and customer complaints. Four years later it admitted to broader problems going back decades. Joe Rundle, head of trading at ETX Capital, said: "We've always thought that the VW emissions scandal would rumble on and now it looks like the dodginess is not confined to the German carmaker." South Korean car makers Hyundai Motor Co and affiliate Kia Motors Corp in 2014 agreed to pay $350m in penalties to the US government for overstating their vehicles' fuel economy ratings. They also resolved claims from car owners. TELEGRAPH

US launches criminal investigation into Panama Papers claims
The “crusading” US Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Preet Bharara, has launched a criminal investigation into possible international tax avoidance that may have been revealed by the Panama Papers leak. The launch of the criminal investigation comes after President Barack Obama described global tax avoidance as a huge problem, adding: “The problem is that a lot of this stuff is legal, not illegal.” Any tax avoiders who have Mr Bharara on their tail are also likely to find him an extremely dogged opponent.  Since becoming the US attorney for Manhattan in 2009, he has charged at least 96 Wall Street executives with offences connected to insider trading.  By the end of last year, the New York Post was referring to him as “crusading” and claiming he had engaged in a “six-year battle against Wall Street.” In 2011 he warned Wall Street that none of its largest firms were "too big to prosecute", and he has certainly shown little fear of confronting banking giants like Citibank, which in 2012 paid $158 million (£110 million) to settle claims its mortgage unit fraudulently misled the government into insuring risky loans. INDEPENDENT


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