Friday 28 October 2016

Friday, October 28, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,
Yes, say Fee, Chris and KJ...

The last 10 years have seen a great degree of change. But despite this change, one thing has remained constant – cities in the South have continued to outstrip their counterparts in the rest of the country across a range of measures: On population, cities in the South have expanded at twice the rate of cities elsewhere in the UK; The number of businesses increased by almost 27 per cent in southern cities, compared to 14 percent in other UK cities; The most marked figure is for jobs – for every one extra job in cities elsewhere in Britain between 2004 and 2013, there were 12 extra jobs in cities in the South.


Only London and the south east have recovered from the bank crash, says Bank of England director

Brexit was about inequality in the UK, not immigration. Have our politicians realised this?

Inequality: the UK has 9 of the 10 poorest regions in Northern Europe. But Inner London is the richest

Graphs at a glance: With highest pay and highest job growth is London sucking the life out of Britain?

Londoners earn 15% more 'cos London is damn expensive! But the poorest 5th in London are paid only 4% more

Graphs at a glance: Britain is already a low-pay economy with falling average wages

Is your Cost of Living crisis over?! Average wages are still back where they were 10 years ago

Thursday 27 October 2016

Thursday, October 27, 2016 Posted by Hari 1 comment Labels:
Theresa May faces Tory backlash over planned cuts to in-work benefits
Conservative backbenchers, including the former work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith, are preparing to campaign against £3bn of planned cuts to in-work benefits, in a fresh sign of the pressure Theresa May faces from within her own party. Veterans of the backlash against the deep cuts to tax credits George Osborne was forced to withdraw last year are gearing up to put pressure on his successor, Philip Hammond, in the run-up to November’s autumn statement. They would like the chancellor, who has said he will “reset” tax and spending policy in the wake of the Brexit vote, to ease the hardship of families who are set to receive significantly lower handouts under the new universal credit (UC) system. While there is no parliamentary vote planned on the cuts, which have already been legislated for, the spectacle of centrist Tories taking to the airwaves to accuse the government of failing to protect the poorest families will underline the challenge May faces in governing her own party. Conservative MPs are particularly concerned about the low earnings thresholds workers hit before they start to lose some of their benefits; and the steep withdrawal rates, which mean some groups of workers would keep just 24p of every extra pound earned under the new system. David Burrowes, the Enfield Southgate MP who supported the battle against the tax credit cuts, said: “I share the concern that the changes to work allowances will mean that we do not yet have a welfare system where work always pays and too many people will be in work but in poverty.” Analysis by the Resolution Foundation thinktank suggests that families would be £1,000 a year poorer under UC, if the cuts are implemented. GUARDIAN

Number of Brits hospitalised by malnutrition QUADRUPLES
More than 16,000 cases of malnutrition were reported in hospitals in England last year. Malnutrition is described by the NHS as being a serious condition that occurs when a person’s diet does not contain the right amount of nutrients. More than 900 of these malnutrition cases were severe, which means that patients were in danger of starving to death. According to the NHS, there are an estimated three million malnourished people in the UK at any time. Campaigners believe increased food prices, lower wages and benefit cuts are to blame. Professor of public heath at Liverpool University, Simon Capewell, said: “It is a national scandal... The fifth wealthiest country on the planet is now suffering from Victorian diseases such as malnutrition, rickets, scurvy.” Professor Capewell said that for every person admitted to hospital for malnourishment, there will be 50 times that number getting care from their GP. Last year more than a million people accessed food banks because they were not able to afford their own food. The professor also highlighted that between 2007 and 2014 food prices rose 12 per cent, but wages dropped seven per cent. Labour MP Frank Field, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on hunger, said: “The new data on malnutrition, as well as the data we have uncovered on the numbers of children who are underweight and anaemic, paints a grim picture of life at the bottom of the pile.” According to Mr Field, 20 per cent of children arrive hungry each morning to school. Tesco’s UK chief executive Matt Davies has warned that an increase in food prices will be “lethal” for struggling families. He said: “When family budgets are constrained, families end up buying the cheapest possible calories, which are often the least healthy, but become essential for mere survival.” EXPRESS

Economic benefits of expanding Heathrow 'exaggerated by up to £86bn'
Government figures show that the financial benefits of expanding Heathrow may have been overstated by up to £86bn, as rival Gatwick refused to rule out challenging the nod given by ministers to build a third runway at the west London airport. It has emerged that a report by the Department for Transport had more than halved previous estimates of the economic boost of Heathrow over 60 years, suggesting that an extra runway at Gatwick would bring virtually the same benefits. Government analysis suggested that expanding Gatwick would yield £54bn in benefits, less than the £61bn attributed to Heathrow but requiring the destruction of fewer homes and being a cheaper project overall. Government officials warned they disputed figures provided in the airports commission report by Sir Howard Davies that a third runway at Heathrow would boost the economy by up to £147bn, some £86bn more than the government estimate. INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMES

Hard-up nurses being forced into debt as 35,000 rely on payday loans – almost double 2013's number
Unions have called for an end to the one percent NHS pay rise cap that has left nurses with a 14 per cent cut in real terms and forced them into debt. Payday lender’s research found that 11 per cent of nurses had applied to them for loans since January 2015, up from just six per cent in 2013. Josie Irwin, of the Royal College of Nursing , said: “It’s no surprise. They put up with the rise in the cost of living because of their commitment to caring for patients, but they can only be stretched so far.” A nurse from Buckinghamshire said: “My salary has been frozen for six years. I always end up needing more money.” And another, a mother of one from Hackney, said she had considered leaving the NHS through stress. She added: “Besides long hours and intense pressure at work, I am forced to take payday loans to pay my bills and support my family.” Danielle Tiplady recently completed her adult nursing course at King’s College, London. She said payday loans, food banks and university hardship funds were all becoming necessities for herself and her cash-strapped colleagues. Danielle, 29, said: “The alarming thing is a large number of nurses and students do use food banks and access hardship funds from universities. I do night shifts, weekends, bank holidays. I work during my actual holidays... I’m happy to do whatever when I’m there and I get stuck in because I know I’m part of the NHS. People who have this passion, I look and I see how upset they all are, and how tired they are, and they’re crying. They feel like they can’t do their job.” MIRROR

Delivery giant Hermes faces HMRC inquiry into low pay allegations
The move follows a Guardian investigation that revealed some self-employed couriers for the company, which delivers for retailers including John Lewis and Next, were taking home less than minimum wage. Some 78 couriers subsequently made complaints to Frank Field, the chairman of the House of Commons work and pensions select committee. They set out how their self-employment meant they received no paid holidays or sick pay. They also said they risked losing work if they were unable to do their rounds because of ill health or for other reasons. Twenty more also claimed they should be considered employees rather than self-employed. Edward Troup, HMRC’s executive chairman, said: “If we find that companies have misclassified individuals as self-employed, we will take all necessary steps to make sure they pay the appropriate tax, national insurance contributions, interest and penalties.” Troup made clear that he could not comment on individual cases, but said: “Individuals cannot be opted out of employment rights and protections, simply by calling them ‘self-employed’. We are committed to tackling false self-employment.” GUARDIAN

HMRC to take over work of tax credits firm Concentrix
Concentrix, the firm accused of incorrectly withdrawing tax credits from hundreds of claimants, is to have its work brought back in-house to HM Revenue and Customs, staff have been told. Work now being done by the US company will be taken on by HMRC immediately, said the Public and Commercial Services union (PCS). Last month HMRC said it would not sign a new contract with the company, whose present contract was due to end in May next year. Concentrix, which was at the centre of a parliamentary debate this week, had handled tax credit claims, having won a multimillion-pound contract to save the UK government money by preventing incorrect or fraudulent claims. MPs heard from one claimant, Sarah Broome, a 40-year-old single mother from West Molesey, Surrey, who claimed she was forced to go six weeks “out of pocket” due to a decision by the company to end her payments. OnThursday, Rebecca Long-Bailey, shadow chief secretary to the Treasury, said the HMRC move was a victory for those families who had been unfairly targeted by Concentrix. Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the PCS union, said: “We’re delighted HMRC has agreed with us this work is best carried out in-house and, crucially, has accepted our argument to protect the jobs of Concentrix staff by transferring them into the department. We will be pushing for these workers to be employed on the same terms as their HMRC colleagues. Sadly, this could all have been avoided. The fiasco is further evidence it is a false economy to hive off important public services.” GUARDIAN

Earnings rise fastest for the low-paid, thanks to higher minimum wage
A 6.2% rise for the lowest paid UK workers meant pay inequality narrowed between April 2015 and early April 2016, the figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) indicate. The pay gap between men and women has also shrunk slightly, it said. Pay overall rose at its joint highest rate since the financial crisis, driven by wage rises in the private sector. Weekly earnings for full-time workers were 2.2% higher in April from a year earlier, or by 1.9% after inflation. Despite the increases, the Resolution Foundation think tank points out that typical earnings still remain 6.8% below pre-financial crisis levels. The median average full-time worker was paid £539 a week - or £28,028 a year - before tax in April 2016. Generally, a worker in the highest paid 5% of employees saw a 2.5% rise in earnings in the year to April, but it was the lowest paid who have seen the fastest increase. The National Living Wage (NLW) came into force on 1 April, requiring employers to pay workers aged 25 and over at least £7.20 an hour. This led to an immediate pay rise for 1.8 million workers. Workers aged 21 to 24 have been paid the National Minimum Wage of £6.95 an hour since 1 October. Previously it was £6.70 an hour. Hourly earnings, excluding overtime, for full-time jobs among the lowest-paid increased by 5.9% from £6.86 to £7.26 between 2015 and 2016. Laura Gardiner, senior policy analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said: "The introduction of the National Living Wage has well and truly made its mark on pay across Britain. The new wage floor has contributed to a significant closing of the gender pay gap and a welcome fall in pay inequality. "But while 2016 has been the strongest year for pay in over five years, we may not see this level of growth again this parliament given the outlook for lower earnings growth and higher inflation in the wake of the Brexit vote. Debbie Abrahams, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "The figures are yet more disappointing news for working people, with real earnings still below their pre-recession peak in 2008 and the number of people stuck in low-paid jobs increasing by 66% on last year." BBC NEWS

Bill for PPI mis-selling scandal tops £40bn, as Lloyds pays out another £1bn, Barclays £600m
The costliest mis-selling bill in UK financial services history became even more expensive on Thursday after Barclays set aside a further £600m to handle the cost of claims. Data compiled by the thinkthank New City Agenda shows that this top up for Barclays has pushed the total provisions incurred by the industry to £40.2bn. Lloyds Banking Group makes up £17bn of that total. The size of the payouts have already been cited as a reason for booming car sales and holidays. As one penny off income tax costs about £4bn, it could be regarded as a boost to household income. Not all the money has gone straight into consumers’ pockets. The latest data from the Financial Conduct Authority shows that from January 2011 – when claims started to be made – until the end of July about £25bn had been distributed by the banks and other firms which sold PPI. Claims management companies have, according to the National Audit Office, received up to £5bn of the payouts. The banks have also incurred billions of pounds of costs in handling the claims. They have not used all the money they have set aside, in anticipation of more applications for compensation. More than 50m PPI policies were sold, according to the former City regulator the Financial Services Authority. Banks sold most of them – around 45m policies, worth £40bn. A consultation run by the FCA into setting a deadline for claims closed earlier this month and could result in a cut-off point of June 2019 for remaining customers to make their case. It will also herald an advertising campaign, expected to cost £40m, to encourage customers to come forward and beat the deadline. GUARDIAN

Thursday 20 October 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
TfL to take over London's suburban rail services? Mayor Khan vows to end 'nightmare' delays and overcrowding
Plans to improve rail services for millions of London commuters have been submitted to the Government in a bid to end the “nightmare” of delays and overcrowding. Presenting his business case for devolving suburban rail services to Transport for London, Mayor Sadiq Khan said passengers had been coping with poor services for too long. He said the move has cross-party support from in and outside London, including MPs, London boroughs and Surrey, Kent and Hertfordshire councils. Transport Secretary Chris Grayling has so far appeared lukewarm about the TfL proposal, with insiders suggesting he was concerned about the impact on Kent and other counties outside London. However, he is not thought to be against more devolution in principle, and TfL hopes that with county councils on board he could be persuaded to hand over more control. TfL’s case focuses on suburban rail, but spells out that longer-distance services going beyond London’s boundaries would still be run by the Government and suggests these  commuters would benefit from related improvements. Crucially Kent, which has previously voiced the strongest objections, now says it is open to discussions. TfL’s business case sets out how  further devolution would help tackle the housing crisis, with potential for up to 80,000 new homes to be built within one kilometre of stations on newly-devolved lines, as well as boosting economic growth including  thousands of extra jobs. EVENING STANDARD

Just 2.6% of grammar pupils are from poor backgrounds, new figures show
Just 3,100 of the 117,000 pupils who currently attend grammar schools come from families poor enough to be eligible for free school meals. The proportion of students (2.6%) is lower than previously reported, and was last night seized upon by critics of the government’s plans for more selection in the state system. Across all schools, the average proportion of pupils entitled to free school meals in areas that currently select on academic ability is thought to be around 18%. The figures, compiled by the House of Commons library from Department for Education records from January this year, illustrated how selection was failing those from the least affluent backgrounds. The government’s green paper on education reform proposes that existing grammar schools should be allowed to expand and new ones be allowed to open, while existing comprehensives could opt to be selective. It also proposes encouraging multi-academy trusts to select within their family of schools, in order to set up “centres of excellence” for their most able students. Lucy Powell, the former shadow education secretary, said there were now 23 Tory MPs who supported her campaign to force a government U-turn on their plans to introduce more selection. “All the evidence shows that selective education creates barriers for disadvantaged children rather than breaking them down,” she said. “These figures tell the real story. A minuscule number of children on free school meals pass the 11-plus.” GUARDIAN

NHS head disputes Theresa May’s £10bn claim over health funding
The chief executive of NHS England, Simon Stevens, disagreed with the prime minister’s statement, which she repeated on Monday, that “the government has not just given him £8bn extra, we’ve given him £10bn extra”. The £8bn was pledged last year by the then chancellor, George Osborne. Stevens told the Commons health select committee that the NHS had only received the money it had asked for in two of the five years covered by the £8bn: 2016-17 and 2020-21. For those two years the budget increases the NHS is due to get are “in the zone” of the sums it needs to implement its Five Year Forward View plan to transform patient care to keep the service sustainable.  “But for the [other] three years we didn’t get the funding we requested,” Stevens said pointedly. “As a result we have a bigger hill to climb. It’s going to be more of a challenge in 2017-18, 2018-19 and 2019-20 [than NHS chiefs expected],” he added. While the NHS would get only “modest” extra sums in 2017-18 and 2019-20, “2018-19 will be the most pressurised year for us ... [because] we will have negative per-person NHS funding growth.” Sally Gainsbury, a senior policy analyst with the Nuffield Trust health thinktank, said that while NHS trusts had cut their unit costs by 13% since 2010, their income had gone down by 18% over the same period. GUARDIAN

Self-employed 'now earning less than in 1995'
The Resolution Foundation said that while the UK's self-employed workforce had grown by 45% since 2001-02, their weekly earnings had fallen by £60. It blamed the rise of lower paid jobs and the financial crisis, which had reduced pay rates. Adam Corlett, economic analyst at the Resolution Foundation, said that almost five million UK workers were self-employed - about one in seven workers and a record high. They included construction workers, hairdressers, taxi drivers, tutors and IT consultants, he said. According to the research, average self-employed wages were £240 a week in the 2014-15 financial year - the most recent period for which data is available - down from about £300 a week in 1994-95. TUC general secretary Frances O'Grady said: "Britain's new generation of self-employed workers are not all the budding entrepreneurs ministers like to talk about. "While some choose self-employment, many are forced into it because there is no alternative work. Self-employment today too often means low pay and fewer rights at work." Some companies have recently been accused of taking advantage of self-employed staff. Taxi app firm Uber is awaiting the outcome of a employment tribunal after two of its drivers claimed it was acting unlawfully by not paying holiday or sick pay. The US company says it has 40,000 drivers in the UK, so the result could have a significant impact on its costs. Meanwhile, takeaway delivery firm Deliveroo faced protests in August after saying it would pay its self-employed drivers per delivery, rather than on an hourly basis. The firm, which was also criticised by the Department for Business, soon backtracked and made the scheme optional. BBC NEWS

Asda faces £100m bill in equal pay dispute
Asda is facing a £100m claim from thousands of female workers after a class action was given the right to proceed with their battle for equal pay. Around 7,000 shop floor workers have complained they were received between £1 and £3 an hour less than staff at Asda’s distribution centres, the majority of whom are men. The case dates back to 2002 and to date around 9,500 past and current workers from across the UK have joined the class action, which is represented by law firm Leigh Day. Asda said it “continued to strongly dispute the claim” and had tried to argue that because the shops and distribution centres were in different locations workers were entitled to separate pay arrangements. “This is a dramatic victory for the workers we represent”, said Lauren Lougheed, a lawyer in the employment team at Leigh Day. “Asda tried to argue that because the shops and distribution centres were in different locations, with different pay arrangements, that Asda could pay the men what they like... This judgment will have far reaching implications on other supermarket equal pay claims including those we are bringing on behalf of around 400 Sainsbury’s workers who are in a similar situation.” TELEGRAPH

Thousands of rural pharmacies under threat again after funding talks with ministers break down
One in four local pharmacies had been threatened with closure after ministers said they wanted to withdraw a £170million subsidy for community chemists. This meant that up to 3,000 out of the 12,000 pharmacies in the UK – many of which are in rural areas - faced closure. There was a temporary reprieve last month when new care minister David Mowat said he would wanted “to make sure we are taking the right decision”. However the Pharmaceutical Services Negotiating Committee said it has now been told it faces cuts of 12 per cent in the current financial year, with more to follow in the year after. Sue Sharpe, the committee’s chief executive, said that if pharmacies were forced to close it would simply add to the pressures on the rest of health service as more people would turn to their GPs. TELEGRAPH

Sir Philip Green: MPs recommend stripping BHS ex-chief of knighthood
BHS was sold by Sir Philip last year, but then collapsed with the loss of 11,000 jobs and carrying a £571m pension deficit. A lengthy three-hour debate was held, during which Sir Philip was attacked from MPs across the parties. They did not hold back. Among the most notable criticisms was that he was like the autocrat Napoleon and the former boss of the Mirror group of newspapers, Robert Maxwell, as well as being an "asset-stripper". Labour's David Winnick branded Sir Philip "a billionaire spiv who should never have received a knighthood. A billionaire spiv who has shamed British capitalism". He added that his "billionaire's lifestyle" was a "form of provocation" to BHS employees and pensioners. Conservative MP Richard Fuller said: "Freedoms that are given to people who have enormous power over fellow citizens are based on people doing not only the legal thing, but the right thing.” Frank Field, chairman of the Work and Pensions committee, said Sir Philip could have solved the problem easily and been of help in building a stronger pensions regime. "We are dealing with a man who has huge sums in wealth. He could have dealt with the pensions problem and walked away smelling of roses," he said. "He would have helped us begin to set the debate about how we deal with pension deficits. He had nothing to say and couldn't help us lead the debate." Mr Field is pressing for the Pension regulator to take legal action against Sir Philip to make good the BHS pension deficit. A damning MPs' report on the High Street chain's failure, published in July, concluded Sir Philip had extracted large sums and left the business on "life support". At the time Sir Philip described the report as "the pre-determined and inaccurate output of a biased and unfair process". BBC NEWS

Pension blow for five million: Treasury U-turn means retirees are stuck with their rip-off annuities
The U-turn is a huge blow to older savers who were forced to convert their retirement savings into annuities. They can no longer hope to escape the often poor-value deals. Ministers say they acted to stop pensioners being exploited – they were facing fees of up to 20 per cent for cashing in. But campaigners accused the Government of breaking its promises and leaving millions in the lurch. Bought by workers with their pension funds when they retire, annuities pay a regular income for life. Many produce meagre returns. Under pension freedoms introduced in April last year savers reaching retirement were told they no longer had to buy an annuity with their pension pots – and could instead spend the money as they liked. But the reforms excluded those who had already bought an annuity. Some had only small pension pots and received little income. Others were victims of mis-selling. Ministers announced a few months later that the freedoms would be extended to these five million annuity holders from next April. That raised hopes that a second-hand annuities market would spring up to throw them a lump sum lifeline. But insurers have proved reluctant to buy back the annuities – with as few as two in ten major players saying they intended to do so. For their part, savers faced handing over thousands of pounds for financial advice. The Treasury said it was scrapping the policy because so few firms had signed up and that savers risked being stuck with poor deals. It claimed that only a small proportion of pensioners would have cashed in. DAILY MAIL

Thursday 13 October 2016

Thursday, October 13, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
RBS destroyed customers' businesses for profit and rewarded staff who targeted struggling firms, leaked files suggest
New documents show a project, labelled by one executive in an email as a 'dash for cash', crippled firms as it dangled hefty bonuses to staff who targeted firms to be 'restructured.' RBS, which was bailed out in the financial crisis by taxpayers, allegedly destroyed thousands of businesses during the crisis to boost profits, according to the secret documents obtained by BuzzFeed News and the BBC. It is believed that RBS bought assets at rock-bottom prices when firms hit difficulties in the economic turmoil which erupted in 2007 to then flog for a profit. Staff were encouraged to target struggling companies and levy them with harsh fees. It meant many went bust while it boosted its own balance sheet. The documents support previous allegations made by now government business adviser Lawrence Tomlinson in 2013. He concluded that RBS deliberately destroyed viable businesses and used their financial turmoil as a way to hoover up assets cheaply. RBS customers have accused it for years of changing borrowing limits based on unrealistically low valuations of their business. Subsequently, many breached lending thresholds. It meant RBS then forced them into the hands of its so-called Global Restructuring Group. GRG would then apply higher interest rates and pressured customers to sell assets in order to repay loans, took equity stakes in businesses and pushed them into administration – all claims also made by Lawrence Tomlinson. GRG was wound-down by RBS in 2014, a year after the report. Roughly 16,000 businesses are said to have been put into GRG after the credit crunch, with loans issued by the unit increasing by a whopping 500 per cent to £65billion between 2007 and 2012. This allowed GRG to rack up healthy profits of £1.2billion in 2011. Many of the owners affected have stepped forward to say they suffered mental and physical health problems as a result of their treatment by the bank. DAILY MAIL

Travellers at risk of 'disgraceful' 'exchange rate profiteering' at airports
Consumer champion Martin Lewis, of, launched a fierce attack on financial companies for taking advantage as one leading airport bought at 1.35 euros and sold at just 97 cents. Tweeting a picture of a Moneycorp exchange rate board which showed buy-sell spreads had edged to more than a third, he wrote: "No wonder they shouted at me 'you're not allowed to photograph that'. Disgraceful exchange rate profiteering [content deleted]" David Buik, a markets commentator for leading stockbroker Panmure Gordon, said consumers were being widely exploited at airports: "The foreign exchange system is not down to Brexit alone... But the pound is under pressure and we are back to the volatility days. It is somewhat inevitable that they will capitalise on vulnerable people. They know exactly what they are doing." Holidaymakers were offered 97 cents for the pound at several airports on Friday after a torrid day in the currency markets following the overnight "flash crash". TELEGRAPH

Bernard Matthews sale sparks pension row as owners will get millions - but members of its pension scheme only 1p in the pound
The details are set to spark a fresh row over pension rights and whether owners should receive huge sums from firms despite black holes in retirement funds. The Bernard Matthews Pension Fund has been left with a gaping £17.5million deficit which is likely to swell to £20million, the report commissioned by MPs show. The business, best known for producing Turkey products, was placed in a special type of insolvency called a pre-pack administration which allows assets to be sold in advance of a firm going under, leaving creditors unpaid. Politicians on the Work and Pensions Select Committee are probing the sale and the use of pre-pack administrations. The MPs asked Professor Prem Sikka of the University of Essex to examine the pre-pack administration arrangement and he claims Rutland is likely to receive £39million. The proceeds of the sale will also be used to make a full payment of £46.4million to lenders Wells Fargo Capital Finance (UK) and PNC Financial Services UK. The administrators have already billed £790,000 and legal fees are likely to amount to £668,000. MPs claim the pre-pack administration arrangement acts against the interests of pensioners who need better protection. Sikka said: ‘The administration strategy seems to have been carefully crafted to enable secured creditors and controllers of Bernard Matthews to extract maximum cash from the company and dump the pension scheme and other liabilities. No attention has been paid to the hardship caused to retired and existing employees’. DAILY MAIL

Crackdown on firms that won't prop up pensions: Regulator demands extra powers in wake of BHS collapse
BHS collapsed into administration earlier this year with a £700million black hole in its retirement scheme. Its failure puts the financial security of thousands of former employees at risk and has led to stinging criticism of former owner Sir Philip Green. The billionaire tycoon – who sold the 88-year-old retailer to three-times bankrupt former racing driver Dominic Chappell a year before its failure – has pledged to 'sort' the deficit but he is yet to make good on that promise. The collapse led to a joint probe by Parliament's business and pensions committees. Work and Pensions Select Committee chairman Frank Field has been a vocal critic of Green, accusing him of behaving like Napoleon and surrounding himself with 'yes' men. There is mounting anxiety over the burden large businesses face from their pension schemes. The 5,945 programmes overseen by the Pension Protection Fund had a combined deficit of £459.4billion at the end of August, £82.6billion more than a month earlier. Big names with major issues include Tesco, which has a £5.9billion black hole. However, a push to give the regulator more power is likely to meet stiff opposition from businesses. Any money put into paying down a firm's pension deficit cannot be handed out to shareholders in the form of dividends. In the case of privately-owned firms such as BHS, this simply means rich businessmen pocket less cash. But large public firms are often partly owned by major pension providers such as Aviva or Legal & General – so forcing them to pay out less could paradoxically hurt other savers. DAILY MAIL

Rent-to-own firm BrightHouse admits new customer affordability checks bring in fewer customers
The controversial retailer, which lets shoppers pay for goods in weekly instalments with annual interest rates of up to 99.9%, said that more detailed checks on shoppers’ finances were having a material impact on the number of customers signing contracts and hurting profits. The company is seeking to bring its practises into line with the regulatory regime overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA), which took over regulation of the rent-to-own sector from the Office of Fair Trading in 2014. The FCA revealed in the summer that it was concerned about some practices in the rent-to-own sector, including the way in which major players such as BrightHouse had been dealing with affordability assessments and customers who fall behind on payments. Rent-to-own firms sell furniture and other households goods to customers on weekly payment plans. The sector, led by BrightHouse, Perfect Home and Buy as You View, has flourished in recent years as it has become more difficult for some households to access credit. Interest rates are typically higher than on mainstream forms of borrowing. BrightHouse says its rates range from 69.9% to 99.9% depending on the customer’s credit history and length of contract. In the year to 31 March 2016, BrightHouse’s customer base shrank 0.4% to 276,200 as it screened shoppers more carefully, but the average monthly spend for each customer increased by 5% to £120.87. Group sales were up 5.4% at £370.7m, delivering a pre-tax profit before exceptionals of £21m, in line with 2015. Citizens Advice said last week that the number of people struggling with debts to rent-to-own firms and on guarantor loans rose by 16% in the second quarter, as borrowers no longer able to get payday loans move to other, less heavily regulated forms of borrowing. GUARDIAN

Brexit slowdown means 'lower rise' in living wage expected next year
Weak pay growth in the wake of the UK's vote to leave the EU is set to reduce the increase to the National Living Wage by 10p, the Resolution Foundation forecasts. The think tank now expects the rate to rise to £7.50 an hour next year. That would still mean an annual pay rise of up to £600 for full-time staff. The National Living Wage, which was introduced in April, currently stands at £7.20 per hour for workers aged 25 and over. About 4.5 million workers are expected to benefit from the increase - with the amount dependent on how many hours they work. Stephen Clarke, policy analyst at Resolution Foundation told the BBC's Today programme: "The National Living Wage relates to average earnings and because of Brexit, many forecasters, including the Bank of England, revised down their earnings growth; therefore the National Living Wage has also been revised down." Despite the fact that the increase is lower than expected, the report adds that the National Living Wage is still set to transform the country's low-pay, helping some 800,000 workers out of low pay by 2020. Low-pay is defined as an employee earning two-thirds of the country's typical hourly pay. BBC NEWS

Rail delays: New plans to compensate passengers when train is 15 mins late
Rail passengers can currently only make claims when services are delayed by at least 30 minutes. The Department for Transport (DfT) said its new scheme will initially launch on Govia Thameslink Railway services in the next few months before being expanded on other networks. Passenger and rail industry groups said they supported the plans. The changes would also see compensation of 100% of the single fare ticket value for delays of between 60 and 119 minutes. After its initial launch on GTR in the coming months, the DfT said the scheme will be expanded - starting with any new South Western, West Midlands and South Eastern franchises. GTR operates Southern services, which have suffered months of disruption and strikes on rail routes in south London, Surrey, Sussex and Kent. Commenting on the plans, Anthony Smith from watchdog Transport Focus said: "Train companies need to do more to alert passengers to compensation. Passengers expect the process to become smarter and automatic, taking the onus off them to have to claim in the first place - automatic Delay Repay is the way forward". The DfT said all future rail franchises will be required to introduce the compensation policy, and officials said they will explore opportunities to roll it out for all franchises during the current parliament. BBC NEWS

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