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Thursday, 24 November 2016

Thursday, November 24, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, November 24, 2016 with No comments | Labels:

Virgin Care wins £700m contract to run 200 NHS and social care services
The contract, which was approved on Thursday, has sparked new fears about private health firms expanding their role in the provision of publicly funded health services. Virgin Care has been handed the contract by both Bath and North East Somerset NHS clinical commissioning group and Conservative-led Bath and North East Somerset council. It is worth £70m a year for seven years and the contract includes an option to extend it by another three years at the same price. It means that from 1 April Virgin Care will become the prime provider of a wide range of care for adults and children. That will include everything from services for those with diabetes, dementia or who have suffered a stroke, as well as people with mental health conditions. It will also cover care of children with learning disabilities and frail, elderly people who are undergoing rehabilitation to enable them to go back to living at home safely after an operation. NHS campaigners warned that the history of previous privatisations of NHS services in other parts of England may mean the quality of care patients receive drops once Virgin takes over. “In too many instances outsourced healthcare has resulted in care being compromised to cuts costs. Patients need secure services that they can trust and rely on,” said Paul Evans, co-ordinator of the NHS Support Federation, which monitors NHS contracts being awarded to firms such as Virgin. The collapse of the £725m UnitingCare contract in Cambridgeshire meant Virgin’s newly acquired contract would be the most lucrative ongoing deal for providing NHS care, he said. GUARDIAN

90% of appeals upheld against Concentrix, hired by HMRC to cut tax-credit payments
Concentrix was hired to help cut tax-credit fraud and overpayment, but has been accused in recent months of incorrectly withdrawing tax credits from hundreds of claimants. The BBC's Victoria Derbyshire programme has previously reported the case of Nicola McKenzie, a teenage mother who had her child tax credits stopped by the company after she was wrongly accused of being married to a 74-year-old dead man. Between 14 September and 15 November 2016, 24,219 claimants have now had their tax credits reinstated. Tax credits - the child tax credit and the working tax credit - are government payments made to households on low incomes. Catherine Smart Ekpenyong said she had been "elated" to learn her tax credits would be reinstated after they had been cut in August. "I cried, I shook, I was pinching myself," she said, adding that she would now be able to "do a normal food shop" and afford to travel to hospital to receive post-cancer treatment and check-ups. SNP MP Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh called on the Chancellor to ensure compensation was available for all those affected. "Some are receiving it, but some aren't," she said. "There are paltry sums like £20 in some cases... it doesn't even cost the cover of the phone calls or the postage of sending documents again and again to be reviewed by Concentrix." HMRC has already announced the US company, Concentrix, will not have its contract renewed. In October, HMRC announced it would take on the work being done by Concentrix. BBC NEWS

Want affordable housing? Then force property developers who are sat on land to build homes or get out, say estate agents
Property developers who cling on to sites with planning permission for housing should be forced to construct homes within three years or sell up, a group says. 'Speculators who are sitting on land only to sell at a profit' are clogging up much-needed space for new homes, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors said. More brownfield sites and unused land should be freed up to create affordable homes and councils need to speed up planning applications, the findings added. The government's Department for Communities and Local Government recently revealed that the number of affordable homes built in England in the past year fell to its lowest level for 24 years. There were 32,110 built, compared to 66,600 in the previous year, according to the government body's figures. With optimism in the market falling, over 80 per cent of respondents to RICS' latest survey said they were not expecting to market any starter homes in the next year. Jeremy Blackburn, head of policy at Rics, said: 'However, we must be clear that not all starter homes will be affordable homes... Building more starter homes is a help, but it is only one way to tackle the huge social problem of the lack of affordable housing.' DAILY MAIL

Three arrested amid Panama Papers insider trade inquiry
More arrests are planned in the joint-investigation by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the National Crime Agency (NCA), Bloomberg News reported. The Chancellor told the Commons that HMRC’s Panama Papers Taskforce had “identified a number of leads relevant to a major insider trading operation”. A team of HMRC officials has been combing through the millions of ­documents leaked earlier this year from the Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca. Their collaboration on the investigation recalls Operation Tabernula, Britain’s biggest insider dealing investigation yet, in which the NCA carried out covert surveillance. Among five Operation Tabernula convictions to date, earlier this year Martyn Dodgson, a former Deutsche Bank corporate broker received a four-and-a-half-year prison sentence. In a separate case, last week Mark Lyttleton, a former BlackRock fund manager, pleaded guilty to two charges of insider dealing. As well as leads on insider dealing, Philip Hammond said the Mossack Fonseca trove had prompted criminal investigations of 22 suspected tax evaders and identified the hidden owners of 26 suspicious offshore companies used to hold UK property, among other breakthroughs for investigators. TELEGRAPH

Big Six energy firms 'making six times more profit than they say', according to leaked PWC report
The suggestion is based on a report for Energy UK by respected accountancy firm PWC, according to the Sun newspaper. The paper said it obtained an original copy of the report which is said to show that the cost of supplying a home with gas and electricity "falls well below" what families pay with the Big Six energy firms. Energy UK cites on its website calculations by industry regulator Ofgem that operating margins in 2015 were equal to around 4% of a bill. It says that the Sun's figure does not accurately reflect costs across all tariffs, as to calculate actual profit margins across all deals offered by every supplier wouldn't be possible. But the paper accused Energy UK of cherry-picking parts of the report to put on its website which failed to include details of the profits. Energy Secretary Greg Clark said he would summon Energy UK for a meeting "to discuss the report's findings". "This report appears to confirm my concern that the big energy firms are punishing their customers' loyalty rather than respecting it," he said. SKY NEWS

Energy bills mislead with phantom savings offers
People have been told of savings of up to £200 that never materialise. Up to a third of households could be affected. One EDF customer in Norwich found such an offer on the front of her November bill, under the heading "Our cheapest overall tariff". "Over the next year you could save £42.08 by choosing Blue+Price Protection Nov17 with Direct Debit, our cheapest fixed electricity and gas tariff available for your meters," the message on her bill said. But if this customer took the offer up and switched tariffs, the BBC’s Money Box calculated her true saving would be just £4. Phantom savings can even turn into real losses. In one example analysed by Money Box, a £47 projected saving with Npower would actually lead to the customer paying £147 a year more than they now do. How does it happen? A methodology stipulated by Ofgem and known as the personal projection lies at the heart of the problem. The personal projection is a forecast of the amount a customer would spend on energy in the year ahead if they fail to switch when their current fixed term tariff expires. A failure to switch means customers are automatically put on their supplier's usually much more expensive standard variable tariff (SVT) reserved for people who rarely or never change suppliers or tariffs. So a customer nine months into a cheaper one-year tariff will have a personal projection made up from the remaining three months on their current tariff plus nine months on their supplier's SVT. This is stated, in part, on the bill. The result is a personal projection which is usually much higher than the amount someone on a fixed tariff is actually paying. Voltz and MoneySavingsExpert are among a handful of energy price comparison sites which, along with TheEnergyShop.com, have found ways to stop using Ofgem's personal projection methodology. They now simply compare the cost of proposed tariffs with what customers currently pay. BBC NEWS

Taxpayers may be liable for £75bn North Sea decommissioning bill, says GMB
The GMB's Scotland secretary, Gary Smith, told BBC Radio Scotland that the costs of decommissioning were "far more than was originally projected". He said the total bill could be "north" of £100bn and taxpayers may have to fund between 50 and 75% of that. He said: "The reality is we have got foreign owned oil and gas companies that are going to enjoy huge tax breaks at our expense and they are taking vital decommissioning work abroad... That's what's happened with the Janice platform, the Maersk platform which is going to Norway, and of course we had the rig which washed up on Lewis on its way to be decommissioned in Turkey... So Scotland is losing out on this vital work because of a lack of investment and because of a failure and dishonesty and dithering on the part of the UK and Scottish governments." Lang Banks, director of environmental group WWF Scotland, backed the union's report. He said: "Having made hundreds of millions of pounds in profits over the past few decades, the costs for decommissioning old rigs and restoring the marine environment should be being fully covered by the companies themselves." BBC NEWS

Lettings agent fees will be banned
Lettings agents in England will be banned from charging fees to tenants "as soon as possible" under plans announced in the Autumn Statement. Tenants can be charged fees for a range of administration, including reference, credit and immigration checks. Chancellor Philip Hammond said shifting the cost to landlords will save 4.3 million households hundreds of pounds. The worry is that agents will simply charge the landlord, who will pass the full cost onto the tenant. But the new law should spur competition as landlords, unlike tenants, can shop around for the cheapest agent. In Scotland, lettings agency fees to tenants have already been banned. Fees vary widely, with costs in some big cities much higher than elsewhere. The latest English Housing Survey shows fees typically cost £223. However, Shelter research in 2012 found that one in seven tenants pays more than £500. The charity said renters had no choice over the agent they dealt with after finding a house or flat. Landlords, on the other hand, were able to choose between agencies to act for them when renting out their property. Overall, along with rent in advance and a deposit, the average upfront costs faced by renters using a letting agency are more than £1,000 nationally and over £2,000 in London, according to Shelter. BBC NEWS

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