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Thursday, 2 February 2017

Thursday, February 02, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Posted by Hari on Thursday, February 02, 2017 with No comments | Labels:

Social Care funding crisis: Tory-led Surrey County Council announce referendum on 15 per cent council tax hike
A Tory-controlled council is set to hold a referendum on raising council tax by 15 per cent, after blaming the Government for the looming crisis facing social care. Surrey County Council said it had a "huge gap" in its budget following successive years of cuts to local government funding by ministers. The council, which includes the constituencies of both the Chancellor Philip Hammond and Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, will need the approval of local voters to bring in the new council tax rate. Such a hike would increase average tax on a Band D property by almost £200, bringing the bill to about £1,500. The leader of the council told Theresa May to stop spending money on foreign aid and instead fund elderly care. Conservative David Hodge blamed the Government for the looming crisis facing social care, saying it has to put up taxes.   He urged the Government to stop spending 0.7 per cent of GDP on foreign aid. He said: "Government has cut our annual grant by £170 million since 2010 - leaving a huge gap in our budget. Demand for adult social care, learning disabilities and children's services is increasing every year. So I regret, despite us finding £450 million worth of savings from our annual budget, we have no choice but to propose this increase in council tax." Local authorities are required to hold a referendum if they want to increase council tax beyond a Whitehall-imposed threshold of 2 per cent. Surrey's proposed referendum would take place on May 4, alongside the local elections. Politicians have been given repeated warnings that the country is facing a looming care crisis, as rising numbers of nursing homes close down in the face of shortages in staff and funding. The Local Government Association (LGS) says councils across Britain will receive £2.2 billion less to run local services in 2017/18 than last year. TELEGRAPH

NHS spending per person will be cut next year, ministers confirm
Numbers released by ministers show NHS England will face a sharp reduction of 0.6 per cent in real terms of per head in the financial year 2018-19. The figures also fly in the face of the Government’s public insistence that it is investing more in the health service, with Jeremy Hunt and Theresa May repeating the mantra of an extra £10bn for the NHS. That claim was debunked by the cross-party Health Committee in the summer, whose chair, Tory MP Sarah Wollaston, said the number was both “incorrect” and “risks giving a false impression that the NHS is awash with cash”. In a written statement to the House of Commons health minister Philip Dunne said NHS England’s per capita real terms budget would increase by 3.2 per cent in 2016-17 financial year. However growth would fall sharply next year, down to just a 0.9 per cent increase in 2017. It would then go negative by 2018-19 with a 0.6 per cent fall in real spending per head in that financial year. Growth would remain very low in 2019-20 at 0.2 per cent and 0.9 per cent in the years following. The wider health budget outside the NHS is facing even more sustained cuts, with two years of shrinking resource per head and a maximum growth rate of 0.4 per cent after this year. This includes staff training and public health. NHS trusts are reporting record deficits across the country as funding continues to tighten and fails to keep up with demand or inflation. This week the National Audit Office warned that overstretched A&Es were also having a knock-on effect on other parts of the health service such as ambulances, which they said were increasingly missing targets. The latest numbers of a per capita real terms cut relate only to England, because the health service is devolved to the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Irish governments – with Westminster’s controlling England’s system. INDEPENDENT

Your new job stinks, George! Worrying questions over links between Treasury and US finance giant that’s hired Osborne on huge salary
George Osborne was engulfed in a furious row last night over his lucrative new job with one of the world’s biggest investment firms. It emerged that Mr Osborne had met with executives from BlackRock, the world’s biggest asset manager, a total of five times in his final two years as chancellor. Before that, only junior ministers had met with the firm since 2010. His final meeting with the investment management giant came just days before he was sacked by Theresa May in July last year. The former Chancellor has since been handed a part-time role as a senior advisor at BlackRock, which is expected to earn him a six-figure salary. Last night, the Whitehall appointments watchdog was facing questions over why it had waved through Mr Osborne’s appointment without any objections. The so-called Acoba committee wrote to the ex-Chancellor saying it had ‘no concerns’ about him taking the post because he had made no policy decisions relating the bank’s interests. But in another twist yesterday, it emerged that the committee had since been forced to correct the letter - to admit that Mr Osborne did make decisions affecting the asset-management industry. Media reports from two years ago showed how BlackRock had gleefully greeted the ex-Chancellor’s landmark pension reforms, which gave savers control over their pension pots. At the time, the bank said that it was ‘uniquely positioned’ to take advantage. Last night, opposition MPs accused Mr Osborne of ‘trading on his ministerial contacts book’. They described Acoba’s handling of the appointment as an ‘embarassing bungle’ and a ‘farce’. The ex-Chancellor said that he was taking the one-day-a-week role with the firm, which he will take up on top of being an MP, netting him at least £200,000 a year. On top of his MPs’ salary he has earned at least £628,000 from after-dinner speeches following his sacking last July. The Mail revealed last year that two thirds of ministers and officials who then go on to take private sector jobs do so in the same sector they were in charge of when in government. Around 10 per cent of MPs have a second job, earning an average of £46,000 a year of pounds on top of their £74,000 salary. DAILY MAIL

RBS puts aside further £3.1bn for US mortgages fine
The provision is for an expected penalty over the sale of financial products linked to risky mortgages before the 2008 financial crisis. RBS, which is 72% state-owned, has now put £6.7bn aside to cover litigation by the US Department of Justice (DoJ). It means the bank is set to report a loss for 2016, the ninth year in a row that RBS has lost money. Chief executive Ross McEwan has been trying to end RBS's legal wrangles so that the government can sell its stake in the bank, which was the result of a £45.5bn bailout during the financial crisis. RBS's potential US penalty could fall anywhere between $12bn and $20bn, experts say. Most of the big banks have faced litigation over claims they mis-sold toxic mortgage-backed bonds in the run-up to the financial crash. Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank agreed to pay $5.3bn and $7.2bn to settle their respective mis-selling cases in January. The DoJ is suing Barclays for alleged mortgage securities fraud after the bank walked away from negotiations in December. BBC NEWS

Well-paid bosses should not get knighthoods – says Sir Philip Hampton
Sir Philip Hampton, who is chairman of pharmaceuticals group GlaxoSmithKline and was awarded his knighthood for public service, said businesspeople were rewarded with money, and that the honours system should be directed at those who do not benefit from big financial inducements. “The rewards for being in business should be primarily financial and other rewards and appreciations probably should be more directed at people who are not getting financial rewards,” he said. “I think to get both financial rewards and other recognition is a bit too easy.” He also said bonuses ended up paying out even if performance was indifferent, adding: “We should try have a move back to much less incentive pay and, if necessary to keep the level of rewards competitive, more basic pay.” Honours handed to company bosses have been in sharp focus in recent months. In October, MPs voted for Sir Philip Green to lose his knighthood after the collapse of department store of BHS – a symbolic move – while the bribery scandal at Rolls-Royce has sparked calls from Labour for the firm’s former chief executive Sir John Rose to lose his honour. Fred Goodwin, who ran RBS until its £45bn taxpayer bailout in 2008, was stripped of his knighthood in 2012. He was appearing before MPs on the Commons business, energy and industrial strategy select committee and was among a number of witnesses giving evidence on corporate governance. GUARDIAN

One in 10 nursery schools in England face closure within months
There are only 400 maintained nursery schools left in the country, offering high-quality early years education targeted at vulnerable children from difficult and deprived backgrounds. Research for an all-party parliamentary group has found that 45 of those believe they will be forced to close by July, and almost 67% say they will be unsustainable once transitional funding provided by the government to ease the crisis finishes at the end of this parliament. Nursery schools are widely acknowledged to be a “jewel in the crown” of England’s education system, offering high quality education for the youngest children and the best outcomes for those from challenging or deprived backgrounds – 97% are rated either good or outstanding by schools watchdog Ofsted. Campaigners fear, however, that many will be forced to close as local authorities look for savings to meet unprecedented budget cuts and the government’s new early years funding formula – which comes into force in April to support the 30-hour free childcare offer to working parents – reduces nursery school income further. Following an outcry from the sector, the government has found an additional £56m in transitional funding for the next three years to try to ease the crisis. It is also carrying out a consultation to try to find a longer-term solution to funding. But some nursery schools fear they will not survive that long and are worried about the long-term sustainability of the sector. GUARDIAN

Rolls-Royce lobbied ministers to weaken anti-bribery proposals
Rolls-Royce, which this week agreed to pay £671m in penalties after admitting it had engaged in corruption, lobbied ministers to weaken proposed curbs on bribery a decade ago. The effort to dilute anti-bribery regulations was conducted under the leadership of Sir John Rose, the firm’s chief executive until 2011, who is facing calls from Labour to be stripped of his knighthood after the bribery settlement. Documents from a 2004 court case show how Rolls-Royce, in alliance with other multinationals, exerted pressure on the government to water down proposals that were intended to combat bribery. Tony Blair’s government had proposed strengthening rules to stop bribery in contracts that were supported by the UK’s export credit agency and ministers said they were stepping up efforts to prevent UK businesses paying bribes to secure contracts overseas. The then Labour government subsequently diluted the anti-bribery proposals. That decision was challenged in a legal action brought by the anti-corruption campaign group Corner House. As a result, the lobbying documents were released. Sue Hawley, an anti-corruption campaigner involved in the legal action, said: “Clearly Rolls-Royce didn’t want any scrutiny of its agents and commission payments because its main business model was paying bribes via agents to win contracts.” In his judgment approving the Rolls-Royce settlement this week, Sir Brian Leveson described how the firm had systemically used middlemen to funnel “truly vast corrupt payments” to secure contracts. The bribes were paid to win contracts in countries including Indonesia, China, Russia, Thailand, Iraq and Angola, earning more than £250m in profits. GUARDIAN

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