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Thursday, 5 May 2016

Thursday, May 05, 2016 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, May 05, 2016 with 1 comment | Labels:

Councils 'to sell up to £145m of housing a year to fund right-to-buy'
Under plans unveiled in 2015, local authorities will be required to sell “higher value” council homes when these become vacant. A chunk of the money raised would be used to fund discounts of up to £103,900 for housing association tenants who want to buy their homes. Some MPs have already argued that it is wrong to fund a national policy with what was effectively a levy on councils, and now the housing charity Shelter has estimated that this could force the sale of 23,500 council homes in England in just one year. The policy is currently going through parliament as part of the government’s Housing and Planning Bill. Shelter said it had calculated that in order to reach the £4.5bn figure, each local authority would need to sell off the top 30% of each vacated property size by number of bedrooms. In its new report, Shelter said that in order to raise the £4.5bn per year needed to fund the extension of right-to-buy as calculated by the Conservatives, each local authority could be asked to raise an average of £26m. However, this average disguises wide variations. The housing and homelessness charity said Birmingham was set to be the hardest-hit area, as it would have to raise around £145m a year – which would involve selling off 1,190 homes. Leeds and the London borough of Southwark would have to raise around £129m and £122m per year respectively. Meanwhile, the estimated figures for the London boroughs of Islington and Hackney were £99m and £90m. These figures are a lot higher than the average because the areas have some of the highest numbers of council homes and the highest turnover rates, said the report. By contrast, the annual bill for some local authorities could be much lower than the average: £197,000 for Hartlepool and £372,000 for Coventry, for example. GUARDIAN

Banks nab your new £1,000 savings tax perk by immediately cutting your savings rates
Four weeks ago, savers were told they would no longer have to pay tax on up to £1,000 interest from ordinary deposit accounts. It was supposed to put more money in their pockets, turning an £80 return into a £100 return for a basic-rate taxpayer. But banks and building societies have grabbed part, if not all, of the new tax break by slashing the rates they pay savers. In some cases, rates have fallen by 20 per cent or more. For basic-rate taxpayers, this effectively cancels out the extra interest they’d have received under the new rules. The personal savings allowance gives basic-rate taxpayers the right to earn their first £1,000 of interest in a tax year without paying any tax. It comes on top of any interest you earn on your cash Isas. Higher-rate taxpayers have a £500 allowance. Under the old rules, an interest rate of 1.25 per cent meant you got £100 interest on £10,000. The bank would deduct £25 tax automatically and hand it over to HM Revenue & Customs. Under the new rules, you’d get the full £125 if it falls within your personal savings allowance. But if the rate is cut to 1 per cent, you will still see only £100, even though you no longer have to pay tax. Susan Hannums, of comparison site savingschampion.co.uk, says: ‘Providers appear to have lost interest in savers. In many cases, they have stolen their much-needed tax breaks by paying lower rates.’ Banks can defend the cuts because cash is pouring in and when they are awash with money they can’t lend. So it sits on their books, not making any profit. Figures from the Bank of England show a huge £4.9billion went into savings accounts with banks and building societies in March. DAILY MAIL

'Bank Of Mum And Dad' Now Fund 25% Of Mortgages
The 'Bank of Mum and Dad' will pump £5bn into mortgages to help their kids this year, according to a report which blames weak wage growth versus soaring house prices. Legal & General (L&G) said parental aid would help finance 25% of UK mortgage transactions - making mums and dads a "top ten" lender. The financial services firm estimated they would provide deposits for more than 300,000 mortgages, purchasing homes worth £77bn. But the report warned that relying on parental support might soon be unsustainable as parents could be giving away more than they can afford. A separate study by the National Institute for Economic and Social Research (NIESR) also identified risks to pensions and savings from the housing market. It said that rising house prices were diverting investment in retirement, with purchasers using a mortgage receiving about 15% less pension income than those who do not, on average. L&G pointed to the disparity between wage growth and house prices - with the latest official figures showing average annual pay rises of around 2% currently at a time of house price increases of 7.6%. Its report said parental contributions already made up more than 50% of the wealth of the average household in London when property was excluded. It described that scenario as a "tipping point" - adding: "Families clearly cannot continue to use all of their net wealth to help their offspring onto the housing ladder without putting their own financial stability at risk". Nigel Wilson, L&G’s chief executive, said: "The generosity being displayed by UK families doesn't make up for intergenerational unfairness - younger people today don't have the advantages the baby-boomers had, including cheap housing that delivered windfall gains". He added: "We have a supply-side problem in housing - we are simply not building enough houses. We need to build more, especially as the Bank of Mum and Dad could soon start to experience a funding crisis of its own". SKY NEWS

Proposals to stop restaurants from keeping staff tips may become law
Announcing a two-month consultation on proposals that the government said would stamp out unfairness, Business Secretary Sajid Javid told the BBC: "Too many people were finding that when they were leaving tips for hardworking people they weren't actually going to those people... That's unacceptable. It's got to go to the people you intended it to go to, it's got to be a transparent process, it's also got to be voluntary for good service." It follows claims that some restaurant chains were regularly holding back some or all of the tips meant for staff. Currently, there is no legal requirement for firms to hand over gratuities to their waiting staff. There are almost 150,000 hotels, pubs and restaurants in Britain, employing about two million people. The Unite union said the proposals were a "victory" for staff but should be backed in law. Mr Javid said the government would also look at legislation "if necessary". Unite had been campaigning for action after complaining that some firms were counting tips as part of a worker's pay. Food critic Jay Rayner told the BBC that the system of service charges and tipping "has outlived its usefulness". He believes tipping should be scrapped, with waiters receiving a rise in their basic wage instead. Last year, restaurant chain Pizza Express announced it would stop deducting an 8% administration fee from staff tips made by card following pressure from unions and staff. Restaurant chain Giraffe scrapped its 10% admin fee on tips last year, joining the Restaurant Group, Carluccio's, Garfunkel's and Jamie Oliver's which do not deduct a fee. BBC NEWS

TTIP trade talks: Greenpeace leak shows deal undermines environment, public health
EU standards on the environment and public health risk being undermined by compromises with the US, Greenpeace has warned, citing leaked documents. The environmental group obtained 248 pages of classified documents from the TTIP trade talks, aimed at clinching a far-reaching EU-US free trade deal. Secrecy surrounding the talks has fuelled fears that US corporations may erode Europe's consumer protections. Greenpeace says the texts reveal that the US wants to replace the EU's "precautionary principle" for potentially harmful products with the less strict US approach, which aims to manage risks rather than avoid them altogether. The precautionary principle can force a manufacturer to prove the absence of danger from a product. It applies, for example, to genetically modified organisms (GMOs), whose possible risks to the ecosystem and the food chain are hotly debated. The US permits cultivation of more than 170 GM plants, whereas only one type - a maize variety - is approved for commercial cultivation in the EU. Greenpeace says the TTIP texts do not refer to the global commitment to cut CO2 emissions, as agreed at the Paris Summit on global warming. Yet the European Commission had pledged to make environmental sustainability part of any TTIP deal. There is also widespread concern in the EU about the role of commercial arbitration courts, independent of national courts, where firms can sue governments. It is one of the thorniest issues in the TTIP talks. There are fears that big US corporations could put excessive legal pressure on some EU states. The threat of being sued could have a "chilling" effect on legislators, forcing them to water down welfare protections, critics argue. But the EU's top trade official denied any agenda to lower EU standards. TTIP's supporters say a deal would create many new business opportunities. TTIP stands for Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership. It would harmonise regulations across a huge range of business sectors, providing a boost to exporters on both sides of the Atlantic. The European Commission says it hopes to achieve a deal later this year. BBC NEWS

Offshore tax dodge: Australia to hit multinationals with 'Google tax'
Multinational firms that shift profits offshore will be taxed at a penalty rate of 40% under a diverted profits tax, similar to the so-called "Google tax" introduced in the UK last year. Companies caught shifting profits will be taxed at a penalty rate of 40%, rather than the usual 30% rate. Treasurer Scott Morrison's first budget doubles as the government's pitch to voters at an early election slated for 2 July. The government is seeking to raise additional revenue to pay for tax cuts. "Everyone has to pay their fair share of tax, especially large corporates and multinationals," Mr Morrison said during his address to parliament. The Australian Tax Office will get a 1,000-person strong team of tax avoidance specialists who will target large companies and wealthy individuals avoiding tax. BBC NEWS

'Independent' pharmacist's letter edited by Boots senior execs
Boots stands accused of “trying to deceive the public”, after a letter sent to the Guardian purporting to be from an independent pharmacist was found to have been processed and extensively revised by the retailer’s senior executives. Submitted this week by a self-described “independent pharmacist”, the letter takes issue with the Guardian’s “portrayal of Boots” for doing “damage ... to a profession I love”. In an investigation published earlier this month, the Guardian revealed how managers at Britain’s biggest chain of chemists have been forcing staff to milk NHS schemes to increase company profits. The correspondent adds: “My plea is that some balance is put back into your articles.” The letter was emailed for publication as a Word document. On opening, it turned out to have a string of edits, amendments and corrections left in as “track changes”. The changes were made by Laura Vergani, a vice-president at Walgreens Boots Alliance, the multinational company that owns Boots. The letter makes no mention of Boots’s involvement in its production, even though it repeatedly defends the company and the NHS schemes it has been exploiting for profit. The Guardian’s investigation prompted a flood of letters from Boots chemists, who condemned the company’s working practices and scalping of the health service. Some even claimed that they had been driven to contemplate suicide. When its writer, Nick Kaye, was contacted by the Guardian he initially denied that Boots had touched the letter. On being told that the changes and who had made them were visible, he said: “The only amendment I thought they added was the [publication] date of the story.” The publication date was just one of 17 amendments made by Vergani, along with numerous deletions, corrections and spelling changes. GUARDIAN

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