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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Thursday, March 31, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
'True' UK unemployment is 6.3m, double the official figure
Britain bases its jobless data on a widely used formula that defines an adult as unemployed if they are out of work and have actively sought a new post over the past month. However, the TUC (the umbrella body for UK trade unions) said incorporating six measures of joblessness that are common in the US would paint the UK job market in a much bleaker light. Those include unemployed people who want work but have not actively sought it for six weeks, who number more than 2.2 million in the UK, and "underemployed" adults who are in part-time work because they cannot find full-time work, who add a further 1.3 million to the unemployment total. Brendan Barber, the TUC general secretary, said: "Our jobs crisis is not confined to those out of work. Nearly two million people are being forced to take low-paid, insecure, short hours jobs because of the lack of proper full-time employment. This means people are taking home much less pay, which is putting a real strain on family budgets. When ministers say there are plenty of jobs out there, they are ignoring the sheer numbers of people looking for work, as well as the suitability and location of the jobs available." During the 1980s the Thatcher government was accused of adopting youth training schemes to keep the total from soaring towards 4 million. Later, the Major government and its Labour successors allowed many long-term unemployed to switch to disability benefits. According to the TUC analysis, the UK has experienced a significant rise in the underemployment phenomenon over the past two decades, with the total standing at 1.3 million compared with 802,000 in 1993. All countries have faced similar criticism. The US has kept its unemployment rate from straying much above the all important 10% level by excluding the long-term unemployed, while Germany's extensive youth training and apprenticeship schemes have come under increasing criticism for providing low levels of support to young people with poor school qualifications. GUARDIAN

Most UK manufacturers are struggling to recruit skilled workers
Three-quarters of companies say they have faced difficulties finding the right workers in the last three years, according to business group EEF. It warns a skills shortage is putting productivity growth at risk and adding to pressure on manufacturers as they battle a host of pressures in domestic and overseas markets. The report comes just weeks after the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) cut its forecast for potential productivity, or what workers in the UK can produce an hour, triggering warnings of damage to living standards, wages and government tax receipts. The EEF predicts demand for skills will rocket and urges the government to launch grants for apprenticeships and reform the education system to ensure leavers’ skills match needs of businesses. GUARDIAN

HMRC’s £6m tax evasion campaign used agency linked to tax haven
A multimillion-pound Revenue & Customs publicity campaign to stamp out tax evasion and avoidance used an advertising agency ultimately controlled in an offshore haven. HMRC spent more than £6 million on the campaigns, including £300,000 specifically on offshore evasion. Among the agencies used was TNS, a research agency, whose ultimate parent company and controlling party is WPP, the world’s biggest advertising company which is incorporated in Jersey and was founded by Sir Martin Sorrell, the billionaire tycoon. TIMES

Number of City financiers earning more than €1m rises to nearly 3,000
The European Banking Authority (EBA) said the UK had more than three times as many high-earning bankers as the rest of the EU combined. The regulator’s data showed that the number of high earners across the EU rose 21.6% to 3,865 in 2014, from 3,178 in 2013. The majority – 2,429 – worked in investment banking. It was the first year when the EU bonus cap was implemented and new EBA rules on banks reporting staff remuneration took effect. The regulator’s data showed 16 people at financial institutions based in Britain took home more than €10m in 2014, with one earning €24m-€25m. Since the bonus cap was introduced in 2014, limiting bankers’ bonuses to 100% of salary, or 200% if shareholders approve, the UK and France have implemented waivers. The UK has excluded hundreds of smaller, less risky firms such as asset managers and brokers. GUARDIAN

UK employees work longer hours with no gain in productivity
UK think tank the Smith Institute has found that two-thirds of employees say they are working longer than two years ago, but only 10 per cent believe they are more productive. A quarter of staff believed their productivity had declined over the period. Productivity is a measure of output for every hour worked. The Office for Budget Responsibility downgraded UK productivity in the last quarter of 2015 after nine months of improvements, delaying UK economic recovery. Average output per hour is already around a fifth higher in the rest of the G7 nations compared with the UK. Paul Hackett, director of the Smith Institute, said: “Making the cake bigger by way of productivity improvements is critical to growing the economy, but giving the workforce a smaller slice inevitably leaves employees feeling cheated.” INDEPENDENT

Six million hit by stealth tax raid on wages: £40 a month worse off after opting out of state pension scheme
The reforms hit millions who opted out of a scheme to top up the state pension in return for lower National Insurance contributions. The changes were announced three years ago but come into force now. Someone on £40,000 a year could lose as much as £40 a month from take home pay. Experts estimate around 1.5 million employees in the private sector and five million public sector staff will be affected. The reforms are expected to raise £5.5 billion for the Treasury. Steve Webb, the ex-pensions minister now director of policy at insurers Royal London, said: ‘I think the Chancellor had hoped that no one would notice this rather large tax increase smuggled out.’ The Government is replacing the second state pension (Serps) – which let workers ‘top up’ their basic pension – with so-called single-tier pensions. In a further blow, more than half a million middle class workers will miss the full benefit of the Budget tax breaks. Some 585,000 taxpayers will see the amount they contribute in NI soar by more than £500 for a couple. This will wipe out much of the benefit of the headline-grabbing tax break, which saw the start of the 40p tax rate increased to £45,000. Middle class earners were told to expect a £1,406 benefit. But due to the changes, a couple earning £48,000 each would pay £524 more NI in a year by 2017 to 2018, according to accountancy firm PWC. They would still be better off overall, but by around £882 a year. DAILY MAIL

Train operator GWR's adverts banned for suggesting service owned by public
The train operator Great Western Railway has been banned from running adverts that suggest its service is publicly owned. A poster campaign introducing the company formerly known as First Great Western when it rebranded last September stated: “The railway belongs to the region it serves.” Complainants to the Advertising Standards Authority pointed out that GWR belongs to its owner, FirstGroup, a multinational transport company listed on the London Stock Exchange, and not the people of south-west England. The ASA ruled that the advert was misleading and “might encourage consumers to use or enquire about using the service, for example, out of regional loyalty or because they believed profits directly belonged to the local region”. It told GWR not to suggest in future that the railway franchise was publicly owned, if that was not the case. Cat Hobbs, director of the campaign group We Own It, said: “Privatisation is now so unpopular that train companies can get good PR by pretending to be publicly owned. The GWR advert is misleading – it’s also a sign that it’s time for real public ownership.” The ASA did not upheld a complaint about another GWR advert that described Isambard Kingdom Brunel as “our illustrious founder”, ruling that consumers were likely to understand founder in a broad sense, rather than the founder of the company itself. GUARDIAN

Tuesday, 29 March 2016

Tuesday, March 29, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , ,

SOURCE TELEGRAPH: Iain Duncan Smith resigns as Work and Pensions Secretary in protest at cuts to disability benefits
Iain Duncan Smith has dramatically resigned from the Government in protest at George Osborne's proposed cuts to benefits for the disabled. The former Conservative leader said that plans to cut the benefits paid to the disabled by more than £1 billion were a "compromise too far." He added that they are "not defensible" when announced alongside a budget that benefits higher earning taxpayers. Mr Duncan Smith also accused the Chancellor of forcing through cuts to welfare for "political" rather than national economic reasons. George Osborne had offered to delay planned changes to disability benefits with sources saying they would be "kicked into the long grass". However, the offer was not enough to prevent Mr Duncan Smith, a former Conservative leader, from walking out of the Government. He added: "I am unable to watch passively whilst certain policies are enacted in order to meet the fiscal self imposed restraints that I believe are more and more perceived as distinctly political rather than in the national economic interest. "Too often my team and I have been pressured in the immediate run up to a budget or fiscal event to deliver yet more reductions to the working age benefit bill. There has been too much emphasis on money saving exercises and not enough awareness from the Treasury, in particular, that the government's vision of a new welfare-to-work system could not be repeatedly salami-sliced." He made it clear in his letter than he believes the Government should instead be focussing on reducing benefits for pensioners which have largely been protected during the austerity drive.


OUR RELATED STORIES:

Tory promises of "Low Tax, High Pay" has given us higher taxes & lower pay. See the stats

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

Graphs at a glance: Budget 2014 document shows we’re growing through borrowing. Again. That's why Britain needs a pay rise



Friday, 25 March 2016

Friday, March 25, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , ,
Fee and KJ do the sums...

SOURCE GUARDIAN: Latest budget preserves income of wealthier households, while poorest could lose 12% of their income by 2019
Iain Duncan Smith resigned as the Tory work and pensions secretary on Friday, accusing chancellor George Osborne of delivering a “deeply unfair” budget that inflicted substantial reductions in disability benefits while offering tax cuts for the most affluent. Sustained benefit cuts will result in many households in the bottom 20% of earners losing up to 12% of their income by 2019, according to a report published on Monday by the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). Meanwhile, households in the top half of income brackets will be no worse off and even the poorest pensioners will be 2% in the red at most. Paul Johnson, the director of the IFS, said: “Raising the threshold for paying higher-rate tax is clearly helping people in the middle- and upper-income brackets, while the cuts to benefits reduce the incomes of families on lower incomes.” He highlighted the switch from tax credits to universal credit as a major blow to working households at the bottom of the income scale. “Once universal credit is in place, the benefit system is much less generous,” he said. A chart in the report illustrating the impact of tax and benefit changes until the end of the current parliament shows the lowest 10% of households with children losing almost 10% of their income, while the next band lose more than 12%. The poorest 10% of pensioners lose 2% of their income; pensioners in the top 20% of earners gain or avoid losing any income at all.



OUR RELATED STORIES:

Tory promises of "Low Tax, High Pay" has given us higher taxes & lower pay. See the stats

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

Graphs at a glance: Budget 2014 document shows we’re growing through borrowing. Again. That's why Britain needs a pay rise

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Thursday, March 24, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
IFS backs Duncan Smith: latest budget preserves income of wealthier households, while poorest could lose 12% of their income by 2019
Iain Duncan Smith resigned as the work and pensions secretary on Friday, accusing chancellor George Osborne of delivering a “deeply unfair” budget that inflicted substantial reductions in disability benefits while offering tax cuts for the most affluent. Sustained benefit cuts will result in many households in the bottom 20% of earners losing up to 12% of their income by 2019, according to a report published on Monday by the influential Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS). Meanwhile, households in the top half of income brackets will be no worse off and even the poorest pensioners will be 2% in the red at most. Paul Johnson, the director of the IFS, said: “Raising the threshold for paying higher-rate tax is clearly helping people in the middle- and upper-income brackets, while the cuts to benefits reduce the incomes of families on lower incomes.” He highlighted the switch from tax credits to universal credit as a major blow to working households at the bottom of the income scale. “Once universal credit is in place, the benefit system is much less generous,” he said. A chart in the report illustrating the impact of tax and benefit changes until the end of the current parliament shows the lowest 10% of households with children losing almost 10% of their income, while the next band lose more than 12%. The poorest 10% of pensioners lose 2% of their income; pensioners in the top 20% of earners gain or avoid losing any income at all. GUARDIAN

Only one in 10 homes sold under right to buy are replaced in England
In April 2012, the government relaunched the right to buy scheme and tenants in London now get discounts of up to £103,900, while those outside the capital can buy their property at up to £77,900 below market price. But sccording to the latest data by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), there have been 49,573 sales since the scheme was relaunched, while 4,594 have been started on site or acquired by councils. Currently the right to buy is for tenants of council-owned homes and those that have been transferred to other organisations with a “preserved” right to buy. Campbell Robb, chief executive of Shelter, said: “This will not only make an impossible situation even worse, it’s also a terrible response to our housing crisis... Before the election, the government was happy to suggest that it would replace every home sold off under right to buy one for one. Now, it is rowing back from this by not replacing the homes sold off, with the homes it is building often only affordable for higher earners.” GUARDIAN

'We’re too busy to chase offshore cash': Taxman to miss £1bn evasion target by £780m
A clampdown on tax evaders who have salted cash away offshore will fail to hit its target of more than £1 billion because of a lack of resources at the tax office, the Government’s own budget watchdog has admitted. The Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) said the measures to collect tax from dodgers who had funnelled cash into havens such as Jersey, Guernsey and the Isle of Man would raise just £270 million rather than the £1.05 billion which had been trumpeted – a £780 million shortfall. The alert was buried in the fine details of the OBR’s 260-page report on last week’s Budget. It stated: ‘HM Revenue & Customs is less optimistic about how much of the lost yield can be recouped through additional compliance activity, on the basis that they are unlikely to be able to work the higher number of additional cases on top of existing workloads.’ In 2013 the Government announced an amnesty for tax dodgers using offshore tax havens and at the same time it warned that it would be vigorously pursuing those who did not hold their hands up voluntarily. The number of tax dodgers coming forward on a voluntary basis was lower than HMRC had expected and last year it claimed that it would recoup the shortfall by hammering those who were trying to evade detection. Tax barrister and QC Jolyon Maugham told The Mail on Sunday: ‘The wealthy are escaping the consequences of tax evasion because HMRC cannot pursue the cases. The idea of an amnesty is that you front up now and avoid the bad consequences later. This OBR report reveals that the equation is now: front up now but if you don’t there’s not much we can do.’ The admission that HMRC is too stretched to chase tax evaders will fuel criticisms that while the Government has talked tough on tax avoidance and evasion, its austerity programme is in reality hampering tax collection. The report from the OBR also reveals that the so-called Google Tax – a levy on company profits that are routed via ‘contrived arrangements’ to tax havens – is set to generate just one-third of the receipts that the Treasury had expected. DAILY MAIL

'They’ve gone bonkers': Tory councillors angry with plans to convert all schools to academies
Leading Tory councillors across the country, dismayed by key elements of the education white paper outlined by the government last week, are calling on education secretary Nicky Morgan to rethink her policy of compulsory academisation for all schools. Their concerns echo those of many teachers and parents, who took part in rallies in London and many other towns and cities on Wednesday, to protest against the government’s forced academy programme. The government’s white paper, Educational Excellence Everywhere, says all schools that have not begun to convert to academy status by 2020 will be directed to do so under new powers. Councils will lose responsibility for the remaining maintained schools, the majority of which will be expected to join multi-academy trusts, regardless of performance. Melinda Tilley, cabinet member for education for Oxfordshire county council, which covers the prime minister’s Witney constituency, said: “If it’s not broke don’t fix it. I don’t think schools should be forced. We’ve been supportive of the government’s agenda. We were going along quite well, helping schools to convert where we could. Now all of a sudden they are going to force the rest of them. It makes my blood boil. I’m put in a position where I can’t protect schools. One size does not fit all.” GUARDIAN

Fantasy Farms: Tesco launches range of products named after farms that don't actually exist
Tesco has launched seven branded product lines names after farms that do not exist. Willow Farms whole chicken, Boswell Farms diced beef, and Rosedene Farms blueberries were all found to come from manufacturers with no relation to the names on the packaging of the final product. Some of the foods were imported from overseas and given British names to make them sound local. Farmers Weekly, a trade magazine, did a spot check at Acre Lane Tesco in Brixton and recorded the origins of products that had been given British-sounding farm names. Examples include Rosedene Farms – apples (UK), pears (Belgium), strawberries (Spain), blueberries (Chile); Nightingale Farms – celery (Spain), cherry tomatoes (Spain, Morocco); Woodside Farms – pigmeat products (UK, Holland, Denmark, Germany, “EU”). Only Boswell chicken was found to be 100 per cent British and featured a Union Jack prominently on the label to signal this to consumers. Advertising agencies say that British sounding names and rural, historic or nature references are reassuring to shoppers. Tesco is not the only store to use made up farm names on its products. The Guardian reports that Aldi does so too. The Independent has contacted Aldi for comment. INDEPENDENT

What the Dickensian!! Sports Direct founder Mike Ashley refuses to appear before committee investigating pay and working conditions
The riposte, in which the billionaire called the parliamentarians “a joke”, is the latest instalment in an increasingly bitter battle between Ashley and the Commons’ business, innovation and skills (BIS) committee, which took the unusual step of issuing a summons to the Newcastle United owner last week. The inquiry by the committee, which has threatened Ashley with being in contempt of parliament if he fails to attend a hearing on 7 June, follows a Guardian investigation last year that found workers at the sportswear group’s Shirebrook warehouse were receiving, in effect, rates of pay below the minimum wage. Undercover reporters employed at the Derbyshire facility discovered thousands of workers were subjected to an extraordinary regime of searches and surveillance, while local primary schoolteachers told the Guardian pupils would remain in school while ill – and return home to empty houses – as parents working at the depot were too frightened to take time off work. The disclosures prompted the Institute of Directors to brand the company a “scar on British business” and former shadow business secretary Chuka Umunna to file an urgent parliamentary question, which resulted in the business minister, Nick Boles, being summoned to the Commons to answer questions on the scandal. During the debate, a succession of MPs called for HM Revenue and Customs to investigate if the company had breached minimum wage legislation. Sports Direct responded by announcing a pay rise for its staff, as well as a review of all agency workers’ terms and conditions. GUARDIAN

Pop-up village in south-east London to house homeless families
A council in south-east London has created what it describes as “the UK’s first pop-up village” to house families who are forced to live in B&Bs in other parts of the capital. Rapidly rising property prices and rents, combined with the loss of social housing through right to buy, have put councils under growing pressure to find new ways to help people off their housing lists. In Lewisham one solution is a £4.3m scheme to provide 24 homes and 880 sq m of business space that can be picked up and moved at a later date, allowing the council to make use of vacant brownfield land while longer-term projects are finalised. With the planning process notoriously complicated and long, the local council decided to put the area to use for temporary homes. Just over a year after planning was granted for the temporary village, the cluster of two-bedroom flats is almost complete and the first tenants should move in in June. House prices in the borough have risen by 15% over the past year, according to the Land Registry, reaching an average of £447,291. Rents are also high: last year the average cost for a two-bedroom flat was £1,312 a month. The factory-built flats arrived on the site late last year, each home coming in two pieces: one is the living area with all of the services and kitchen built in, the second provides the bedrooms. The homes have been designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, the architects behind the YMCA’s Y:Cube – individual units for single people in need of housing. “Our only constraint is the volume you can get on the back of a truck and get round the country,” said Ivan Harbour. The architects have pushed things to the limit, building homes that are bigger than the London space standards, with high ceilings that Harbour said “have the scale of the ground floor of a Victorian house”. The flats are well insulated and will cost just £10 a month to heat in winter months. They have a lifespan of 60 years and can be moved several times in that period and configured however the council needs them to be. GUARDIAN

Credit Suisse announces 2,000 job cuts after bankers hid risky trades from new boss
CEO Tidjane Thiam said some employees in the beleaguered bank’s markets division had concealed perilous bets from senior management in the run-up to a cost-cutting drive in October. It meant the investment loss the bank had assumed it made could have been far greater. In an astonishing admission, he told Bloomberg: ‘This wasn’t clear to me, it wasn’t clear to my chief financial officer, it wasn’t clear to many people inside the bank... A lot of the problems in the investment bank are that people have been trying to generate revenue at all costs... That’s why I said there needs to be a cultural change, because it’s completely unacceptable.’ Staff bonuses for 2015 have been slashed by 36 per cent and Thiam himself has asked for a 40 per cent bonus cut. About 35,400 UK banking jobs have been axed since 2009 and analysts warned the picture remained bleak. Laith Khalaf of Hargreaves Lansdown said: ‘A lot of banks are trying to remove some of the riskier areas of their business because they’re being more heavily penalised by regulators.’ DAILY MAIL

Budget watchdog predicts interest rates will FALL below 0.5% record low for some of the next two years
The Government has based its economic forecasts on a cut in interest rates from the record low of 0.5 per cent. The Office for Budget Responsibility said the outlook for rates in the UK had changed ‘significantly’ in recent months. ‘Our forecast is consistent with Bank rate being reduced below 0.5 per cent for some of the next two years,’ the OBR said in a report published alongside the Budget. The OBR added that rates are not expected to reach 0.75 per cent until 2019 – a full decade after the Bank of England cut rates to 0.5 per cent. The outlook for rates has changed dramatically in recent months. In July last year, Governor Mark Carney said the decision over to when to raise interest rates ‘will likely come into sharper relief around the turn of this year’. But he recently said rates could be cut ‘towards zero’ if the economy needs extra support. DAILY MAIL

Thursday, 10 March 2016

Thursday, March 10, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , ,

SOURCE GUARDIAN: Privately schooled people still dominate law, politics, medicine and journalism despite signs of progress
The Sutton Trust educational charity has been carrying out similar surveys for more than a decade, and though it reports “small signs” of progress, this year’s results confirm what has long been known – that if you have a private education, you are considerably more likely to get to the top of British public life. Just 7% of the population attend independent fee-paying schools, while comprehensive schools currently educate 88% of the population. Yet the survey reveals that almost three quarters (71%) of top military officers were educated privately, with 12% having been taught in comprehensive schools. In the field of law, 74% of top judges working in the high court and appeals court were privately educated, while in journalism, more than half (51%) of leading print journalists went to independent schools, with one in five having attended comprehensive schools. In medicine, meanwhile, Sutton Trust research says 61% of the country’s top doctors were educated at independent schools; nearly a quarter (22%) went to grammar school and the remainder to comprehensives. In politics, the picture is a little better, with under a third (32%) of MPs having been privately educated, though that figure goes up to half of the cabinet, compared with 13% of the shadow cabinet. Graduates of Oxford and Cambridge universities also continue to dominate the field, though they educate less than 1% of the population. In law, nearly three quarters (74%) of the top judiciary went to Oxbridge; 54% of the country’s leading journalists went to Oxbridge, and just under half (47%) of the cabinet attended Oxbridge, compared with 32% of the shadow cabinet. It reveals that award-winning British actors are more than twice as likely to have had a private education than award-winning pop stars. While 42% of British Bafta winners went to an independent school, just 19% of British winners at the Brit music awards were educated privately. While Eddie Redmayne, star of The Danish Girl; Homeland actor Damian Lewis; and Tom Hiddleston, now starring in the BBC series The Night Manager, famously went to Eton College, the Sutton Trust points out that British music stars like Adele, Imogen Heap and Jessie J found success after attending the state-funded Brit School in Croydon.


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Thursday, March 10, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
UK workers on zero-hours contracts rises above 800,000
ONS statistician Nick Palmer said: “This latest figure is rather higher than the 697,000 people who said they were on these contracts in late 2014. Though at least some of this increase may be due to greater public recognition of the term zero-hours contract, there’s also nothing to suggest this form of employment is in decline.” On average, someone on a zero-hours contract usually worked 26 hours a week. About one in three people on a zero-hours contract wanted to work more hours, with most wanting them in their current job as opposed to a different job that offered more hours. In comparison, 10% of other people in employment wanted more hours, said the ONS. Research by the TUC shows that average weekly earnings for zero-hours workers are £188, compared with £479 for permanent workers. The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said: “Many people on zero-hours contracts are unable to plan for their future and regularly struggle with paying bills and having a decent family life... The European Union is proposing better rights for zero-hours workers – another reason why workers should be worried about the risks of Brexit.” GUARDIAN

Top headhunters admit pay for UK bosses is ‘absurdly high’
Britain’s chief executives are wildly overpaid, and there would be no negative impact on the economy if their salaries were slashed, a groundbreaking study of the country’s top headhunters reveals. The London School of Economics report is a damning indictment of the state of executive pay, and comes as an analysis by the High Pay Centre of FTSE 100 company accounts shows that the average pay package of a top CEO is now £4.6m a year. Interviews with the top 10 international recruitment firms behind 70-90% of chief executive appointments in recent years found a consensus among so-called corporate kingmakers that levels of remuneration for the most senior executives are “absurdly high”. Headhunters claimed that, for every appointment of a CEO, another 100 people could have filled the role just as ably, and that many chosen for top jobs were “mediocre”. The market for executive jobs, however, has become so distorted that it would amount to career suicide for a chief executive to indicate that he or she would be willing to work for less. The study’s authors write: “If one were to offer to do the job for less, would that tip the decision in his or her favour? All the headhunters agreed that this would be a poor strategy. “Indeed, it might be that asking for a larger remuneration would have a positive effect in securing the appointment.” GUARDIAN

London council launches low cost letting agency for private renters
Haringey council in north London said its online agency, Move 51⁰ North, was the first in the UK to offer private tenants an alternative to mainstream letting agents. Alan Strickland, Haringey’s cabinet member for housing and regeneration, said the agencies would “help stamp out rip-off fees and charges”. Research by Citizens Advice last year found that tenants were paying an average of £337 in charges, but that they varied hugely from agent to agent. Costs for checking references ranged from £6 to £300, while renters also facedcharges of between £15 and £300 for simply renewing their tenancies. Haringey council’s agency will charge tenants a fee of £180 to cover administration and £72 for credit checks. There are no renewal fees if they continue their tenancy beyond the original contract period. Landlords will be offered lettings and management services at the market rate, and access to the council’s maintenance services for repairs. GUARDIAN

Final report “a complete waste of time and taxpayers’ money” - UK watchdog accused of bowing to pressure from 'big six' energy suppliers
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) inquiry, launched in June 2014, was intended to clear up once and for all whether SSE, Iberdrola’s Scottish Power, British Gas-owner Centrica, RWE npower, E.ON and EDF Energy were abusing their control of the market. However, the regulator has retreated from more radical proposals amid ferocious lobbying from the energy sector. Opposition MPs, independent power companies and fuel poverty groups all warned the CMA review, now concluded, would do little to stop householders paying £1.7bn a year too much for their energy. The competition watchdog has called for a price cap on tariffs covering the four million households on prepayment meters and wants a customer database to be set up to make switching supplier more easy. But the CMA has not widened that safeguard cap to include those stuck on high-cost standard variable tariffs and wants to scrap a four-tariff limit established only recently by energy regulator Ofgem to make price comparisons easier. Earlier speculation that the big six would be broken up to separate their supply from their power generation arms was shelved by the CMA as a proposal last summer amid endless lobbying against it by the companies. GUARDIAN

Paddy Power's £280,000 penalty equal to three hours' trading
Bookmaker Paddy Power paid the donation to charity after the Gambling Commission ruled it had encouraged a problem gambler to keep betting until he lost five jobs, his home and access to his children. The man in question was a frequent user of fixed odds betting terminals (FOBTs), which have been described as the “crack cocaine” of gambling, allowing players to stake £100 every 20 seconds. But Paddy Power took less than three hours last year to bring in enough money to cover the £280,000 penalty donation. The penalty donation was also based on the firm’s failure to perform sufficient checks to ensure customers were not using its machines to launder the proceeds of crime. FOBTs are part of Paddy Power’s “machine gaming” division, whose revenues soared by 17% to £94m last year. The Gambling Commission’s powers include imposing a financial penalty on a company and revoking its licence to operate if it breaches the act. Its verdict on Paddy Power, however, resulted only in the “voluntary” £280,000 payment to a socially responsible cause and a promise to commission a review and “share learning” from the case with other firms. The company said it had enjoyed a “truly transformational” year in 2015, with pre-tax profit up 8% to £139m. Shareholders were rewarded with an 18% increase in the full-year dividend to £1.39 per share. GUARDIAN

£91m 'Houdini' bonus tax dodge: UBS and Deutsche Bank lose case
The banks had each tried to pay more than £91m of bonuses in the form of shares in an offshore company, established solely for the purpose of paying the awards. Through a combination of conditions attached to the shares plus a waiting period of two years, the banks hoped to cut the tax bill on the bonuses to 10pc, thus avoiding paying income tax and national insurance. But the banks' efforts to cut their bills were “the most sophisticated attempts of the Houdini taxpayer to escape from the manacles of tax”, Justice of the Supreme Court Lord Reed said. Prior to its defeat at the Supreme Court, UBS had won the case in the Upper Tier Tribunal and in the Court of Appeal. Deutsche Bank lost in its first hearing and so paid the tax, before winning in the Court of Appeal, and then losing this latest round. HMRC, which has been fighting the case for 12 years, said it intended to challenge similar arrangements at other businesses. Treasury minister David Gauke said foreign banks were welcome in the UK only if they played by the rules. TELEGRAPH

Criticism as £30-a-week disability benefit cuts go ahead
Peers have backed down in their battle with MPs over cuts to disabled people's benefits after ministers invoked special powers to push them through. The government was twice defeated in the House of Lords over a £30 a week cut to Employment and Support Allowance (ESA) for certain claimants. But it is set to go ahead after peers deferred to the elected Commons. Ministers claimed "financial privilege" to assert the Commons' right to have the final say on budgetary measures. Ministers argue the changes will encourage people to get into work, but this is strongly disputed by opponents. The cuts in weekly support from £103 to £73, contained in the Welfare Reform and Work Bill, will apply to new ESA claimants in the work-related activity group, bringing the rate into line with Jobseeker's Allowance. It will affect people who are deemed unable to work at the moment but capable of making some effort to find employment, including attending work-focused interviews and taking part in training. Disability rights campaigners Scope said the changes would have a "harmful impact" on half a million people. BBC NEWS

A third of £1m-plus homes paid for in cash since 2011
Analysis of Land Registry data from retirement lending advisory firm Bower Private Clients (BPC) is further evidence of the widening gap between the housing haves and have-nots. It says that more than 7,200 properties in this price bracket are being bought a year without a mortgage. Cash buyers have spent more than £63bn in total on £1m-plus homes in England and Wales since 2011, spending on average £1.75m for a property. In London, 22,852 properties costing £1m-plus have been bought for cash since 2011, and 7,864 elsewhere in the south-east. This compares with 641 in the north-west, 496 in the West Midlands and 239 in Yorkshire and Humberside. At the bottom of the table were Wales and the north-east, with 52 and 79 respectively. The analysis comes after a report from a high street lender predicted that the number of properties in Britain worth £1m or more would more than triple by 2030. Less than 500,000 homes in the UK are currently valued at £1m plus, but Santander said this would increase to more than 1.6m in the next 15 years. GUARDIAN

Friday, 4 March 2016

Friday, March 04, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments
Chris and a housebuilder CEO celebrate...

SOURCE DAILY MAIL: Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey profits boosted 34% by Help-To-Buy, and average home prices hitting £230,000
The FTSE 100-listed housebuilder said sales were boosted by the Government's Help to Buy scheme, which offers an equity loan and a smaller deposit for buyers of newly-built homes. Taylor Wimpey said it sold 37 per cent of its houses through the scheme - which is scheduled to run until 2021. The strong profit gain came after the UK's third largest builder sold 13,219 homes last year, up 7.5 per cent from 12,294 in 2014, with average selling prices hitting £230,000 apiece, an increase from £213,000 a year earlier, which in turn helped boost revenue by 17 per cent to £3.14billion. Taylor Wimpey is the latest house builder to post strong results with Persimmon, another FTSE 100 housebuilder, recently posting 2015 pretax profit growth of 34 per cent, while Barratt Developments' saw its half-year profits soar by 40 per cent.

SOURCE GUARDIAN: Help-To-Buy helps Barratt Homes profits rise 40%
Barratt Homes predicted continuing demand for its houses as it announced soaring first-half profits, fuelled by a shortage of homes and the government’s help-to-buy scheme. The government recently extended help to buy until 2021 and introduced it for buyers in London. Some critics have said the move will simply push up prices in the capital, making houses less affordable. Pre-tax profits at Barratt Homes, Britain’s biggest housebuilder, rose 40% to £295m in the six months to the end of December as revenues rose 19% to £1.88bn. Almost a third of Barratt’s sales were made under the government’s help-to-buy programme, which underwrites a portion of a purchaser’s mortgage for a newly built home. The government is trying to encourage private housebuilders such as Barratt to build more homes to deal with a housing crisis caused by decades of supply failing to meet the demands of a growing population. Shortage of supply lies behind soaring house prices, particularly in London, and fears are growing that the market is heading for a crash after overseas buyers snapped up property for investment or speculation purposes. 


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Thursday, 3 March 2016

Thursday, March 03, 2016 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Google unpaid taxes: France seeks €1.6bn from search giant
The tax arrangements of international companies have come under close scrutiny recently. Several have been accused of using legal methods to minimise their tax bills. In Google's case, its tax structure allows it to pay tax in Ireland, even when sales appear to relate to the UK. In January it struck a deal with UK tax authorities to pay an extra £130m in tax for the period from 2005, but that deal was heavily criticised. Earlier on Wednesday the UK Public Accounts Committee (PAC) said the £130m settlement "seems disproportionately small", compared with the size of its UK business. Europe's competition authorities have been examining whether some deals struck by big companies with national tax authorities amount to illegal state aid. Starbucks and Fiat Chrysler were told they must pay back up to €30m (£22m) in taxes after European tax breaks were ruled illegal. But the two companies disagreed with the ruling, and Starbucks said it would appeal against the decision. Further investigations into tax deals, including those covering Amazon and Apple, are continuing. BBC NEWS

Starter Home scheme: 200,000 “lucky” buyers could make a £141,000 taxpayer-funded profit, but raise prices for everyone else
The government’s starter homes initiative could deliver a taxpayer-backed windfall of £141,000 each to 200,000 lucky first-time buyers, but 2 million more aspiring homeowners will be stuck renting, campaigners say. The scheme, which allows developers to replace shared ownership and affordable rented homes with properties sold at a 20% discount, has been widely criticised since it was first announced in December 2014. One of the key concerns for housing campaigners is that the homes can be sold on at the open-market rate after five years. Lobby group Generation Rent said buyers could therefore stand to make a profit of £228,139 on a home bought for £383,200. Generation Rent said that the original buyers stood to gain, while those who missed out getting onto the scheme would find it ever harder to get on the housing ladder. The group is calling for the homes to be subject to rules saying that they can only be sold on at a 20% discount. Betsy Dillner, the director of Generation Rent, said this would help many more first-time buyers “instead of a jammy handful of winners in a multibillion pound raffle”. Research carried out by Savills for the Local Government Association (LGA) found that the discounted starter home prices were out of reach for all people in need of affordable housing in 220 council areas and for more than 90% in a further 80 council areas. GUARDIAN

Britain's poorest households to suffer five years of ZERO income growth while the rich get richer
The poorest households in Britain will suffer a five-year period of zero income growth, while the country's richest will see their incomes rise 2.3 per cent a year above inflation, a study by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has forecast. And with planned cuts to benefits and tax credits, the proportion of children in relative poverty will rise, as will the number living in 'absolute poverty', the IFS report said. The think-tank warned: 'Income inequality will rise significantly over the course of the current Parliament.' Planned cuts to working age benefits will reduce incomes in poorer households by 3 per cent within the next five years, today's study suggested. In real terms, average gross earnings in the UK were nearly 5 per cent lower in 2013 than before the recession, the IFS said. Between 2013/14 and 2015/16, real growth in incomes, after inflation, was 4.1 per cent for the poorest, 4.9 per cent for average households and 3.2 per cent for those near the top, the think-tank estimated. James Browne, one of the authors of the report, said: 'Following an historically slow recovery in living standards after the recession, stronger growth in household incomes at all income levels over the last two years will have been welcome news... For some, particularly the better-off and pensioners, this is likely to continue over the next five years as earnings and state pensions grow more quickly than inflation... But the prospects are not so good for others, including large families with low incomes, who will bear the brunt of planned benefit cuts.' DAILY MAIL

The rate rip-off: Banks rake in huge and easy profits by cutting savings faster than mortgages
Banks have to pay savers a return to convince them to leave their cash in their accounts. They then lend out this money and charge a higher interest rate, creating a profit margin. The larger the gap, the harsher the bank is treating its customers. Over the past three years this interest-rate margin has ballooned at Lloyds, Nationwide, Santander and Barclays. In 2013, the gap at Lloyds was 2.23 per cent, indicating that savers were earning 2.23 per cent less than borrowers were paying on their loans. In its latest set of reports, the gap had expanded to 2.4 per cent, helping the bank increase profits from banking customers by £286 million to £3.5 billion last year. And what’s more, it’s decided it can afford to pay a dividend to its shareholders for the first time in six-and-a-half years. Nationwide’s interest-rate margin has risen from 1.02 per cent to 1.46 per cent. Profits soared 32 per cent to £1.2 billion last year. Santander’s margin grew from 1.55 per cent to 1.83 per cent between 2013 and 2015. It made a profit of £920 million in 2015 — £252 million lower than the previous year. Barclays yesterday revealed that its margin for 2015 was 2.99 per cent, up from 2.91 per cent in 2013. Its High Street arm made a profit of £3 billion, a 5 per cent rise on 2014. Anna Bowes, of consumer website SavingsChampion, says: ‘Banks are penalising savers to make a profit. It’s unfair and hurts people who are trying to do the right thing... The number of cuts to savings rates is unprecedented.’ Around £160 billion of savings sits in UK accounts that pay a paltry 0.5 per cent interest or less. Ian Gordon, a banking analyst at Investec, says banks haven’t been able to lend out as much as they’d like. That means they’re sitting on piles of savers’ cash that isn’t making them any money. ‘The Bank of England base rate is so low at 0.5 per cent that banks are desperately seeking to maintain their profits — and that means squeezing savers,’ he says. ‘The clearest conclusion is that the pain for savers will only get worse.’ Savers also appear to be losing out as banks battle to tempt mortgage and loan customers. Loan rates for borrowing £7,500 to £15,000 have fallen from 5.1 per cent in 2013 to 3.3 per cent today. To fund these discount deals, banks have hit savers with a devastating round of rate cuts. DAILY MAIL

RBS pays chief executive Ross McEwan £3.8m as it reports £2bn loss
The bank’s full-year results for 2015 follow its admission last month that it was on track to report its eighth consecutive year of losses because of a £2.5bn hit to profits for a string of problems, including having to pay compensation for payment protection insurance mis-selling. Shares in the bank, 73%-owned by the taxpayer, slumped 10% in early trading after the figures were announced. McEwan – who has received the highest pay for a chief executive of the bank since the bailout – said further problems lay ahead for the bank, particularly from “big conduct” issues. Among these is a penalty, yet to be determined and which could run to billions of pounds, for the way it sold US mortgage bonds in the run-up to the 2008 banking crisis. The results – which followed a £3.5bn loss a year ago – mean that the bank has incurred more than £50bn of losses since 2008, when £45bn of taxpayer funds was used to prevent it from collapsing. The performance of the bank was accompanied by disclosures about pay. It said 121 of its staff received more than €1m (£800,000) during the year while its former chief executive Stephen Hester, who was forced out in 2013, received £2.1m from bonus schemes that dated to his time at the bank. GUARDIAN

Lloyds hands CEO £8.5m pay package despite 7% profit fall
Lloyds Banking Group has handed its chief executive an £8.5m pay deal and ignited its share price by announcing a special dividend – despite reporting a 7% fall in profits. António Horta-Osório’s pay was disclosed alongside 2015 financial results showing profits had been knocked to £1.6bn by a further £4bn charge for mis-selling payment protection insurance (PPI). The bank, bailed out in 2008, has now incurred a total bill of £16bn for the long-running scandal which drove it to a fourth-quarter loss. The government has been gradually cutting back its stake, from 43% to less than 10%, but despite Thursday’s rally the shares remain below the 73.6p break even price. He was also handed shares worth £3.6m in a long-term incentive plan, which could pay out in three years’ time. His 10-strong management team were handed shares worth £17m in the same scheme. The total bonus pool was cut to £353m from £369m. Sixty-six staff received total pay of €1m (£800,000) or more. GUARDIAN

Housebuilder Taylor Wimpey profits boosted 34% by Help-To-Buy, and average home prices hitting £230,000
The FTSE 100-listed housebuilder said sales were boosted by the Government's Help to Buy scheme, which offers an equity loan and a smaller deposit for buyers of newly-built homes. Taylor Wimpey said it sold 37 per cent of its houses through the scheme - which is scheduled to run until 2021. The strong profit gain came after the UK's third largest builder sold 13,219 homes last year, up 7.5 per cent from 12,294 in 2014, with average selling prices hitting £230,000 apiece, an increase from £213,000 a year earlier, which in turn helped boost revenue by 17 per cent to £3.14billion. Taylor Wimpey is the latest house builder to post strong results with Persimmon, another FTSE 100 housebuilder, recently posting 2015 pretax profit growth of 34 per cent, while Barratt Developments' saw its half-year profits soar by 40 per cent. DAILY MAIL

UBS confirms fresh tax evasion probe in the US
The Swiss bank said US regulators were investigating potential sales of so called "bearer bonds". These bonds can be transferred without registering ownership, enabling wealthy clients to potentially hide assets. The fresh investigation by the US Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of New York and from the US Securities and Exchange Commission comes after UBS paid $780m (£512m) in 2009 to settle a separate Justice Department tax-evasion probe. And it comes as authorities in a range of countries are considering examining HSBC's actions in helping more than 100,000 wealthy individuals avoid paying tax. UBS results for the full year, were hit by more than $1bn to settle past scandals. In November, it was one of six banks fined by UK and US regulators over their traders' attempted manipulation of foreign exchange rates, paying 774m Swiss francs in total. It also paid $300m in the second quarter to settle charges it helped wealthy German clients evade tax. The US Department of Justice (DOJ) is continuing to investigate UBS over currency manipulation allegations. BBC NEWS

Asda backs down over food bank ban
The supermarket chain Asda has announced a policy U-turn that will see the return of permanent collection points for food banks and other charities in all its UK stores. The move comes after news broke that the collection points were being removed across Britain. Some food banks said the move would threaten 25% of their supplies, while the Trussell Trust food bank network warned of losses of food of up to a third. Asda has more than 525 UK stores and is owned by the US retailer Walmart. In response to its initial policy change, 88,000 people signed a petition hosted by the campaigning organisation 38 Degrees and a number of MPs raised concerns. While this ad hoc campaign took shape, Asda’s rival Tesco announced it was installing 100 new collection points in its stores. Opposition to Asda’s decision was expressed by the mayor of Liverpool, Labour’s Joe Anderson, in an open letter to Asda’s chief executive Andy Clarke. Anderson said he and his extended family were all regular shoppers at Asda stores, but the chain’s decision meant “we can no longer consider being customers of yours, and I will publicly urge Liverpool residents and others to do the same”. In response to Asda’s U-turn, Anderson said: “It’s disappointing that we had to lobby a company like Asda, who are usually good contributors to good causes. But all credit to them for listening. I’m just glad that they’ve done the right thing and reversed the decision.” GUARDIAN

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