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Thursday, 20 October 2016

Thursday, October 20, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, October 20, 2016 with 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

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