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Thursday, 29 September 2016

Thursday, September 29, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, September 29, 2016 with No comments | Labels:

Prime Minister warned as number of homeless hits record levels
Tory MPs have told Theresa May that tackling homelessness will be a key test of her commitment to social justice after official figures showed it had risen to its highest level for nearly a decade. A total of 15,170 households were classed as homeless in the three months to June 2016 - a jump of 10% on the same period last year. Around a third of these are in London, according to new figures from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The last time a higher level was recorded in England was in the period April-June 2008, when 15,680 households were classed as homeless. Tory MP Bob Blackman, who is bringing his Homelessness Reduction Bill to the Commons for debate on October 28, said the figures were a national disgrace. His Private Member's Bill will impose a duty on local authorities to help prevent people at risk of losing their homes from becoming homeless and it is likely to need Government support to become law. A supporter of the Bill, Tory MP David Burrowes, said the Bill would be a litmus test of Mrs May's social justice credentials. The most common reason for losing a home was the ending of a tenancy with a private landlord. This is now causing a greater proportion of households to become homeless than at any point since current records began in 1998 - roughly a third (32%) of all reported cases in the three months to June 2016. Shelter chief executive, Campbell Robb, said: "Every day at Shelter we hear from families struggling to keep their heads above water when faced with the double blow of welfare cuts and expensive, unstable private renting, with far too many ultimately losing the battle to stay in their home. "On top of this, stripped-back budgets and a drought of affordable homes are making it increasingly difficult for overburdened councils to find homeless families anywhere suitable to live." DAILY MAIL

Osborne says the Bank of England's quantitative easing makes the rich richer
The former chancellor, George Osborne, has said that money printing by the Bank of England has made the rich richer and that interest rate cuts have hurt savers. Speaking from Washington in an interview with Bloomberg TV, Mr Osborne said: “We need to offset the very necessary loose monetary policy and the distributional consequences that it is having. Essentially it makes the rich richer and makes life difficult for ordinary savers.” “There’s a role for government policy not in stopping that monetary policy which keeps the economy strong but in mitigating its impact. I think all of us who believe in free markets need to work harder to find an answer to the anger that people clearly feel out there.” The Bank produced its own analysis in 2012 which showed that its quantitative easing (QE) scheme – which it restarted in August to support the economy in the wake of the Brexit vote – inflates asset values. And the Bank has acknowledged that the rich have more of these assets than the poor, meaning they automatically benefit more. Yet, as chancellor, Mr Osborne never commented on the distributional consequences of the Bank of England’s monetary stimulus measures or interest rate cuts, despite widespread complaints from some groups that QE was making the rich richer. His June 2015 budget was also widely criticised for entailing a much bigger cut to the incomes of poorer families than those in the top half of the distribution, as he slashed £12bn from the benefits bill by 2020. In the wake of the 2015 general election Mr Osborne also scrapped the Treasury’s distributional analysis charts showing the impact of overall budget tax and welfare changes, which critics said was born of a desire to disguise the regressive nature of his policies. The Institute for Fiscal studies has however, continued to publish the charts. Mr Osborne did, however, implement policies in office designed to help savers, such as pensioner bonds for the elderly and a virtual elimination of tax on savers’ interest income. In August the Bank's Monetary Policy Committee voted to increased its £375bn asset purchase programme by a further £70bn, made up of £60bn of Government bonds and £10bn of corporate bonds. INDEPENDENT

Thousands more NHS operations cancelled than figures show, report claims
Official figures in May showed the number of hospital operations in England cancelled at the last minute because of a lack of staff or beds rose to 74,086, its highest in 15 years. However, that statistic only records cancellations on the day of admission. About half of English NHS trusts admitted in response to Freedom of Information requests that they had cancelled nearly 42,000 operations between one and three days before patients were admitted. The new figures give a picture more in line with official figures published in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, where the definition of last-minute cancellations is wider and is taken over several days. May’s official figures marked the worst record of cancellations for the NHS in England since 2001-02, when 81,743 patients had procedures cancelled on the day they were supposed to happen. Experts warned that the data was a sign of the pressures on the health service. At the time, Clare Marx, president of the Royal College of Surgeons, said that pressures on A&E units, staff shortages, and bed shortages due to a lack of social care for discharged patients were contributing to the problem. An NHS England spokesperson said: “The proportion of patients seeing their operations cancelled at the last minute remains under 1% in spite of record numbers of operations being scheduled... Our national data collection rightly requires trusts to focus on monitoring the number of last-minute cancellations, as this is where the most distress is caused for patients.” GUARDIAN

'Deeply unfair' fees of up to £900 for the poorest energy customers should be scrapped, says watchdog
When households run up a large energy bill they are unable to pay, their energy provider often installs a prepayment meter to recoup the debt over time. Households have to use the meter to pay for their energy in advance so they cannot get further into debt. Every time they top up, a proportion of the balance is also taken to help eat away at the debt. However energy companies often charge between £200 and £900 to install the meters, including other costs. These sometimes include up to £17 to send the indebted customer a letter. Ofgem today called for a cap of between £100 and £150 on the amount energy customers have to pay, as well as a blanket ban on these fees for the most vulnerable energy customers. If a household does not pay up an energy debt, the supplier can apply for a court order to fit a prepayment meter, even if it's against their will. This is generally done as a last resort when a resolution can't be found to repay the debt. But providers often charge 'warrant costs' to customers for the installation. This can include fees for administration and locksmith charges if firms need access to a property, and can be as much as £900, according to Ofgem. In 2015, the average amount charged was £400 per installation, which includes costs such as court fees, and 86,000 meters were installed under warrant. But as the customers having meters installed under warrant are already struggling to afford their energy bills, the extra fees are likely to push them into even more debt. The watchdog says of those currently with a prepayment meter, around eight per cent of gas and six per cent of electricity customers are in debt to their energy supplier. Ofgem says the fees should be wiped out for the most vulnerable customers such as those in financial hardship, those with physical and mental health issues and those with learning disabilities. Following the Competitions and Markets Authority investigation into the energy market, the amount prepayment customers pay will be cut by around £75 per customer from April 2017. This temporary price cap for the four millions households on prepayment meters will be introduced until all homes can be fitted with smart meters by 2019. This cap was bought in because the cheapest tariffs for those customers are currently £260 to £320 more expensive than for those with a standard meter. DAILY MAIL

Executive pay to be investigated by MPs
MPs have launched an inquiry into corporate governance, focusing on executive pay, worker representation in the boardroom and the lack of women in senior positions. The Business, Innovation and Skills Committee has recently held inquiries into BHS and Sports Direct. The investment arm of insurer Legal and General has also warned Britain's top companies to curb executive pay. It said that significant shareholder opposition "should not be ignored". Companies should take note if more than 20% of shareholders voted against a pay deal, Legal and General said. It comes after the Prime Minister recently pledged to overhaul the way businesses are run. BP, WPP and Smith and Nephew have been among the big companies where investors have revolted against boardroom pay. In April, 59% of BP shareholders voted against a 20% pay rise for chief executive Bob Dudley, worth £14m. However, that vote was not binding and Mr Dudley received the rise despite BP's falling profits. In 2013, amid growing investor unhappiness over excessive pay, the government gave shareholders a binding vote every three years on a firm's pay policy. At BP, the next binding vote is in 2017. MPs will look at the factors which have led to a steep rise in executive pay over the past 30 years in comparison with the salaries of more junior employees. Mr Wright said: "We on the committee are also keen to explore the issue of ever growing pay increases to executives, especially when there often seems to be very little connection with company performance or any pay rises to the vast majority of employees. The High Pay Centre thinktank released a study in August which showed that on average chief executives were paid 140 times more than their employees. Prime Minister Theresa May has said she wants shareholders to have the power to veto executive pay every year, and wants companies to publish figures showing the difference between the average worker's salary and that of the chief executive. She also wants employees to sit on the committee that oversees how much bosses are paid. Last week, Sports Direct said it would put work representatives on the board after it came under fire for its treatment of its workers at its troubled Shirebrook warehouse. BBC NEWS

Volkswagens produce double the legal emissions limit a year after dieselgate - but it's the cleanest carmaker of them all
Sunday marked the 12 month anniversary since 'dieselgate' first erupted: when United States Environmental Protection Agency revealed that some Volkswagen diesel models were fitted with defeat devices specifically aimed at cheating emissions tests. But one year on from the biggest automotive scandal in modern times, Volkswagen has been found to be selling the least polluting cars of any vehicle manufacturer. Transport & Environment found that VW models currently being sold new in dealerships still emitted double the Euro6 nitrogen oxides (NOx) requirement - but that's cleaner than any other carmaker. The findings were published on Monday as part of the motoring environmental agency's report Dieselgate: Who? What? How?, which also found that not one single mainstream car brand complies with the current Euro 6 air pollution limits for diesel cars and vans in real-world driving. Tests were conducted on around 230 diesel models in total. Data was taken from investigations conducted by the British, French and German governments, as well as a large public database, all of which were based on real-world on-road figures rather than laboratory measurements. Fiat and Suzuki diesel cars were found to be the dirtiest of all, on average polluting 15 times more than the legal NOx limit determined by Euro 6 standards. Renault and Nissan vehicles exceed the limit more than 14 times, Vauxhalls were found to pollute 10 times more the restriction while Volkswagen diesel cars polluted twice as much as the Euro 6 target. The motoring group said the results of the emissions tests shone light on the 'scandalous cover up' within the automotive sector and called for action to clean-up tailpipe pollutants of vehicles in Europe. Greg Archer, clean vehicles director at T&E, said: 'The true scandal of Dieselgate in Europe is national regulators turning a blind eye to the glaring evidence of test cheating with the sole purpose of protecting their national carmakers or their own business.' Despite committing to rectifying all 1.2 million UK diesel models affected by the scandal by the end of 2016, VW has admitted it has only managed to fix 10 per cent of all impacted cars so far. DAILY MAIL

Apple pays £89m tax fine for underreporting income in Japan
Apple has been ordered to pay about 12bn yen (£89m) in taxes for improperly reporting income associated with its Japan iTunes unit, according to reports. The news comes weeks after the EU hit Apple with a record £11bn tax penalty, ruling its 25-year “sweetheart deal” with Ireland was illegal. Apple’s unit in question has reportedly paid the amount that was asked by the Tokyo Regional Taxation Bureau. The tax authority argued that the iTunes unit, which sends parts of its profits earned from fees paid by Japanese subscribers to another Apple unit based in Ireland, had not been paying a withholding tax on these earnings in Japan, according to local broadcaster NHK. It was not immediately clear when the bureau issued the penalty or when Apple agreed to pay it, and the tech giant did not respond to a request for comment. The EU has been a strong critic of multinational companies such as Apple, Starbucks and Fiat Chrysler that have benefited from keeping their money overseas. The move allows these companies to avoid paying hefty taxes they could face by bringing the money back to the US. European Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy said that EU member states cannot give tax benefits to selected companies, after Apple was ruled to pay £11bn in tax to Ireland last month. “This is illegal under EU state aid rules. The commission’s investigation concluded that Ireland granted illegal tax benefits to Apple, which enabled it to pay substantially less tax than other businesses over many years,” she said. “In fact, this selective treatment allowed Apple to pay an effective corporate tax rate of 1 per cent on its European profits in 2003 down to 0.005 per cent in 2014.” Tim Cook, Apple’s chief executive, said the Ireland tax ruling was “total political crap” and “maddening”. INDEPENDENT

Rising London house prices spark departure of thirtysomethings
Analysis by the group Generation Rent showed that 65,890 people in their 30s moved from London to another part of the UK in 2014-15, a net loss of 30,410 in that age group. This was 48% higher than in 2011-12, when 20,590 more 30 to 39-year-olds moved out than moved in. Internal migration data from the Office for National Statistics also showed a sharp increase in the number of children leaving the capital. In 2014-15, 26,920 more children under 10 moved out of London than came in, compared with a difference of 19,980 three years previously. Generation Rent said the exodus had taken place during a period in which house prices in London rose by 37%, compared with 16% in the UK as a whole, and rents increased by 10%, compared with 4% outside London. It said almost two-thirds of people moving out of London had gone elsewhere in the south-east and the east of England commuter belt, while 12% had moved to the Midlands and 11% to the north of England. Only among twentysomethings are more people moving into London than out; in 2014-15, there were 37,950 more people in this age group living in the capital than the year before, a 3% increase. Research by Lloyds bank found that moving to somewhere an hour’s commute from London could mean paying hundreds of thousands of pounds less for a family home. While the average price of a home in London transport zones one and two was £741,919, in Wellingborough, Northamptonshire, the average was £183,345, while in Peterborough, it was £189,319, Lloyds said. GUARDIAN

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