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Thursday, 27 April 2017

Thursday, April 27, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
3m poor working families face losing £2,500 a year from benefit cuts
According to the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) the freeze in benefit rates and cuts to child tax credit, coupled with the rollout of universal credit, which has become less generous as a result of changes to work allowances, signal “large losses” for low-income households. If the cuts announced in 2015 were fully in place now, nearly 3m working households with children on tax credits would be an average of £2,500 a year worse off, with larger families losing more. The scheduled cuts for lower-income families come alongside tax breaks worth £5bn a year that predominantly benefit middle- and higher-income households. Although the average impact of tax and benefit changes since 2015 has been relatively small so far, planned benefit cuts will reduce government spending by about £15bn a year in the long run, with the poorest working-age households facing losses of between 4% and 10% of income a year, the IFS says. The impact of the planned cuts on the poorest working-age families over the next five years will be much greater than those imposed during the 2010-15 coalition government. Pensioner households are mostly protected from future benefit cuts. Tom Waters, a research economist at the IFS, said: “As suggested by the 2015 Conservative manifesto, the government have announced income tax cuts that mostly benefit middle- and higher-income households and working-age benefit cuts that mostly hit lower-income households. But while the tax cuts have largely already been delivered, most of the benefit cuts are yet to take effect.” GUARDIAN

NHS needs £25bn in emergency cash, say NHS leaders
An influential group representing NHS trusts says that the care provided by hospitals and GP surgeries will suffer over the next few years unless the prime minister provides an £5bn a year for the next three years – and a further £10bn of capital for modernising equipment and buildings. NHS Providers, an association of NHS Foundation Trusts and Trusts, is preparing to release its own manifesto next week, calling on the Conservatives and Labour to end what it calls the austerity funding of the health service. Hospitals needed that £5bn a year to get rid of their deficits of £800m-£900m a year, fulfil new NHS commitments on cancer and mental health and improve their performance against key waiting time targets. The NHS also needed a further £10bn for capital spending on building and repairing premises, buying new equipment and modernising how care is provided, she added. That is the sum which a recent report commissioned by the Department of Health said the service needed for those purposes. A second group, the NHS Confederation, which represents hospitals and ambulance and mental health services, urged May to commit to giving the NHS £8bn-a-year annual budget increases after 2020-21, when the current funding settlement expires. The DH’s budget is due to reach £133.1bn by March 2021. Niall Dickson, its chief executive, said NHS services were so stretched that it would have to go back to getting at least the 4%-a-year budget increases it enjoyed historically between its creation in 1948 and 2010. After that, the coalition government limited rises to 1% annually. Simon Stevens, the chief executive of NHS England, has voiced concern that per capita health funding will decline in 2018-19 and 2019-20. It is due to fall from its current level of £2,223 a head this year by £16 next year and £7 in 2019. GUARDIAN

McDonald’s offers fixed contracts to 115,000 UK zero-hours workers
Credit Suisse chief executive Tidjane Thiam and the bank's board of directors have offered to cut The move is a significant development in the debate about employee rights because McDonald’s is one of the biggest users of zero-hours contracts in the country. Sports Direct has also used workers on zero-hour contracts in its shops. The fast-food chain is to offer fixed-hours contracts after staff in its restaurants complained they were struggling to get loans, mortgages and mobile phone contracts because they were not guaranteed employment each week. Zero-hour contracts are controversial because companies can use them to exploit workers, offering unpredictable working hours and changing shifts at short notice. The TUC has called for the government to ban zero-hours contracts. It has found that staff on these contracts earns a third less per hour than the average worker. McDonald’s has been trialling the shift to fixed-hours contracts in 23 sites across the country. The company said that about 80% of workers in the trial chose to remain on flexible contracts and it has seen an increase in levels of employee and customer satisfaction after the offer. Staff have been offered contracts in line with the average hours per week they work. This includes contracts of either four, eight, 16, 30 or 35 hours a week. The company will initially expand fixed contracts to 50 more restaurants before rolling it out nationwide to existing and new employees later this year. Paul Pomroy, the chief executive of McDonald’s UK, said: “The vast majority of our employees are happy with their flexible contracts, but some have told us that more fixed hours would help them get better access to some financial products.” He added: “The hard work of our restaurant teams has enabled us to deliver 44 consecutive quarters of growth in the UK.” The company has been targeted by protesters over its treatment of staff. Earlier this month, campaigners from Fast Food Rights and Better Than Zero dressed as clowns and demonstrated outside a McDonald’s restaurant in Glasgow over its use of zero-hours contracts. The TUC has warned that 3.5 million people could be stuck in insecure work such as zero-hours contracts, agency work or low-paid self-employment by 2022 – 290,000 more than at present. GUARDIAN

The UK's middle class remains one of the smallest and poorest in Europe despite having expanded the most over two decades
The United Kingdom’s middle class has seen one of the biggest expansions among Western countries over the past two decades but it remains one of the smallest and least wealthy, new analysis by Pew Research Centre has shown. To qualify as middle class via Pew's income-based model, a family of four in the UK would need a cumulative disposable income of between just over $29,000 and $87,300 (£19,000 - £57,350 in 2010 rates). Among Western European countries this is the lowest except for Italy’s minimum of $25,000 and Spain’s $24,500. The study covers the two decades between 1991 and 2010 for Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain, the UK and the US. But while middle classes shrunk in seven out of the 11 countries, including Italy, Germany and Spain, mirroring a long-term trend in the US, Ireland saw its middle class expand most, followed by the UK. The report also shows that the UK had the biggest share of people on upper-income in Europe at 14 per cent, second only to the US (15 per cent). Norway, on the other hand, had the smallest proportion of population on upper income at 6 per cent as it also counts the biggest middle class, which makes up 80 per cent of its population. The Pew said that countries where incomes are more equal have larger shares of middle-income adults, and vice versa, suggesting that countries like Norway and Denmark are more equal than countries like the UK and Italy. For a UK family of four to be defined on ‘upper income’, it would need to have a cumulative disposable income of around $87,000, compared to Ireland’s $90,000. That is $43,600 for an individual in the UK, compared to $45,000 in Ireland. DAILY MAIL

Arrests as Newcastle and West Ham raided in £5m tax probe
Newcastle's managing director Lee Charnley was among "several men within professional football" who were arrested. He was released without charge at about 17:00 BST. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) deployed 180 officers across the UK and France. The BBC understands the suspected income tax and National Insurance fraud amounts to £5m. HMRC said it searched premises in the north east and south east of England, and seized business records, financial records, computers and mobile phones. Newcastle were promoted to the Premier League on Monday, just 348 days after relegation. According to its 2015-16 accounts, the club had a turnover of £126m, paid out £75m in players' wages and recorded pre-tax loss of £4.1m. HMRC raided West Ham's offices at the London Olympic Stadium where the club moved in August, having played at Upton Park since 1904. Companies House figures for 2015-16 show it turned over £142m, paid out £85m in player's wages and made a pre-tax loss of £4.8m. In January, a Parliamentary Committee revealed 43 players, 12 clubs and eight agents were the subject of "open inquiries" by HMRC. The Public Accounts Committee highlighted particular concerns about tax evasion in the football industry and the "misuse" of image rights to reduce tax liabilities. BBC NEWS

Barclays boss faces shareholder revolt over whistleblowing case
Barclays’ chief executive is facing a shareholder revolt at next month’s annual meeting because of the ongoing regulatory investigation into his attempts to unmask a whistleblower. Shareholders are being advised to abstain from the annual vote to re-elect the American banker Jes Staley to the board by ISS, an influential adviser to major investors, in a sign that the bank could face a significant protest vote against its chief executive at the 10 May AGM. Staley will be braced for questions about his conduct when the bank reports its first-quarter results on Friday. He has issued a written apology for becoming too personally involved in the whistleblowing case, which related to the conduct of Tim Main, who worked with Staley at US bank JP Morgan and was then recruited to Barclays in a senior role last June. Both the Financial Conduct Authority and the Bank of England’s Prudential Regulation Authority are investigating the matter. Barclays has formally reprimanded Staley and insisted that there will be a significant reduction in his bonus, which was £1.4m last year. Not only is it unusual for City regulators to investigate the conduct of chief executives of major financial institutions, it is also unusual for major proxy firms to issue advice to abstain against their re-election to the board. GUARDIAN

"GDP" is measuring the wrong things! Car accidents, poor health and the throw-away society boosts GDP
GDP is seriously messed up. It is often thought of simply as the most common measurement of the size of a country’s economy – how could that be controversial? But far from being impartial, GDP considers all sorts of negative things as good for the economy and ignores other things that are actually really beneficial. Worse than that, it incentivises governments to prioritise those negative things at the expense of the positive – and that can be hugely damaging for a healthy society. Lorenzo Fioramonti is the professor of political economy at the University of Pretoria, South Africa, and author of The World After GDP. According to Lorenzo, the perfect GDP Man – someone who lived to optimise economic growth – would be ‘obese, driving a car to work every day and stuck in traffic, probably have a serious chronic disease and be on the verge of a divorce because after a divorce means more fees to lawyers but also two houses to be bought and one house to sell’. He adds that in theory to maximise GDP, no one would spend any time with their children and work all the time instead. That way, there would be two contributions to GDP instead of none – one of the parent earning money and a second of the carer being paid to look after their children and then spending their earnings. Furthermore, car accidents, poor health and destruction boost GDP, while maintaining and keeping things as they are – such as good health and natural resources - does not. He points out that the two countries that have seen the strongest GDP growth in the last few years have been Libya and South Sudan – both of which have suffered civil wars. DAILY MAIL

Anger as Tate asks underpaid staff to contribute towards boat for boss Nicholas Serota
Tate has come under fire after it asked members of staff, many of whom are not paid the London living wage, to contribute towards a boat for departing director, Nicholas Serota, just one week after their canteen discount was taken away. A notice which went up in the staff rooms of both Tate Modern and Tate Britain on Wednesday asking employees – including security, cleaners, those maintain the galleries or work in the cafe and gift shop – to “put money towards a sailing boat” as a “surprise gift” for Serota. The notice said management had thought “long and hard” about an appropriate gift for the director, who is leaving in May after 28 years at the Tate. “Nick loves sailing and this would be a lasting and very special reminder of the high regard which I know so many of us have for Nick and his contribution to Tate,” the plea for donations added. The appearance of the notice was a source of anger among junior staff. The gallery has been embroiled in disputes over low pay and its decision to outsource a large number of jobs to agency Securitas, which does not pay the London living wage and pay workers less than those hired directly by Tate for the same jobs. The notice was still up on Thursday morning but by lunchtime had been taken down. Tracy Edwards, the PCS Union representative for Tate staff, said several had contacted her about it, adding that she had originally thought the notice was a spoof. “The staff at Tate are underpaid paid and overworked, and haven’t had appropriate pay rises, and this just demonstrates how divorced from reality the management at Tate are,” she said. A staff member at Tate, who is hired through Securitas and spoke to the Guardian on condition of anonymity, spoke of the “disgust” among colleague when they saw the request for donations. “There was a mixture of shock and laughter,” he said. “The chasm that exists between upper management and the staff on the ground is just farcical and this just made it clearer than ever. For us, Serota’s legacy among staff is one of privatisation and union busting and turning the Tate into Westfield with pictures.” GUARDIAN

Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Tuesday, April 18, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels: , , , , , , , ,
KJ and Fee know who and what is to blame...

In safe seats odds are firmly stacked against any voters looking for change. The average constituency last changed hands between parties in the 1960s, with some super safe seats having remained firmly in one-party control since the time of Queen Victoria. That means, at every election, the majority of seats can be predicted because of Westminster’s broken First Past the Post electoral system. As consituencies are small and only elect one MP, rival parties often don’t stand a chance of winning in hundreds of seats across the UK. Even if they have significant support it counts of nothing if they lose. As the loss of safe seats is rare, parties target their resources on a small number of floating voters in marginal seats – meaning they give up on millions of voters across the country. Four weeks away from the 2015 election we could predict the results for over half of the total constituencies.

OUR RELATED STORIES:

More votes shifted left than right at GE2015. That's where the Labour party needs to be. See the stats

It's constituency boundaries wot won it: The Tories won more swing seats. But more people shifted their votes left

Apathy? Since the 1970s Brits vote less. But they take part in community, charity and civic activities more

British Election Study shows UKIP voters are well to the left of the Tories and even the LibDems

Every democracy, including ours, needs a left and a right party. Politicians who shift too close to their opposition are putting their careers before the nation

Most MPs vote the way they're told by the party. Many have second jobs earning tens of thousands. Half sit in safe seats they never lose. It's tough being an MP!

British Social Attitudes Survey: Tories & Labour are losing their core supporters

In 1997 the percentage of young people not voting shot up. Under 55- year-olds too

Since 1979, Labour or Tory, inequality rose whilst economic performance remained the same

"It's the economy, stupid" means the economies of individual families, not just UK Plc

Hope you didn't vote for anyone who helps pump up house prices

Lest we forget: all policies are pointless unless the banks are reined in


Thursday, 13 April 2017

Thursday, April 13, 2017 Posted by Hari No comments Labels:
Google accused of being 'less than transparent' after revealing latest UK tax payments
The search giant said in its UK accounts that it had made sales of £1 billion - despite declaring a figure of over £5 billion to US officials. In Google's US accounts for 2016 the company said it made sales of $7.8 billion in the UK - which is £5.65 billion at current exchange rates. That means it paid just £36.4 million in UK corporation tax on pre-tax profits of £148.8 million - much less than if the full £5.65 billion of turnover had been put through the UK. It is the result of a legal loophole which means some sales are recorded via Ireland where the revenue is untouchable by the UK taxman. Tax expert Richard Murphy, a Professor of Practice in International Political Economy at City, University of London, told ITV News: "What this implies is that £4 in every £5 that Google sells in the UK is not subject to UK tax, and as the accounts note, this is with the full agreement of our tax authority." He added: "The implications are big. Google is reporting profits in its UK accounts of £149 million, or roughly £15 for every £100 of sales it does actually record here. But if, as its US accounts imply, Google should be recording five times more here than it does then the profit in the UK would logically be at least five times higher too. And in that case so too would the tax payment be bigger. And that’s why this matters." The company has faced mounting pressure over its tax affairs amid a backlash against corporate tax avoidance by multi-national companies. Google agreed to a controversial £130 million deal with HM Revenue & Customs in January last year to settle a 10-year tax inquiry into its UK business. Labour's Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell tweeted: "It seems Hammond and May are more interested in cutting Google’s taxes than making them pay their fair share.” A Google spokesman said: "As an international business, we pay the majority of our taxes in our home country, as well as all the taxes due in the UK.” ITV NEWS

Benefits Cap reduces thousands to 50p-a-week housing benefit
A Panorama survey of hundreds of councils shows at least 67,600 homes in England, Scotland and Wales have lost some money due to the new welfare cap. The cap is £23,000 in London and £20,000 in the rest of the country. More than 7,500 of those households have all but entirely lost their housing benefit and instead receive a nominal 50p a week. They have to be in receipt of some housing benefit in order to be eligible to apply for discretionary housing payments, a special government fund set up for those particularly affected by the cap. The cap is part of the government's drive to get unemployed people back into employment by cutting out-of-work benefits. The amount of money above the limit is taken from either housing benefit or Universal Credit. Alison Garnham, chief executive of the Child Poverty Action Group, said: "Removing people's housing benefit basically means that people can't afford their home, so it puts people at risk of homelessness. "It also means that they have to use money that's intended to buy food for their kids and for their other living expenses - this has to be used to plug the hole in their rent." Where someone finds work - 16 hours a week for single parents, 24 hours for a couple - their benefits are reinstated, and research suggests about 5% of those affected by the cap have returned to work. But Ms Garnham said about 80% of those affected cannot be expected to work as they are sick or have very young children. BBC NEWS

Lloyds to pay £100m to victims of HBOS Reading fraud as FCA reopens probe
The bank has already written off about £250m of fraudulent loans made in the scandal, which in February saw six people, including two former HBOS employees, being jailed for a combined 47 years and six months. It now expects to spend a further £100m reimbursing customers who suffered “economic losses, distress and inconvenience” because of the fraud at HBOS’s Reading office in the years before the financial crisis. In a further blow, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) also announced that it had resumed a probe that it had suspended in early 2013 while Thames Valley Police conducted its own six-year investigation into the scam, which resulted in this year’s convictions. The scam was carried out at HBOS’s division in Reading which handled small businesses that had run into trouble and took place between 2003 and 2007, before Lloyds rescued the bank with a disastrous takeover in 2009 during the financial crisis. It involved bribery with sex parties, luxury holidays, expensive watches and cash to refer companies that were HBOS clients to a consultancy firm called Quayside Corporate Services (QCS). The troubled businesses were then asset-stripped by QCS. The £100m provision taken by Lloyds will surprise investors because the bank, which is just under 2pc-owned by the taxpayer, had recently been playing down the amount of compensation it expected to pay. It had initially estimated that about 50 customers had been embroiled in the fraud but because others have come forward it now believes between 70 and 100 clients could have been hurt by the scam. TELEGRAPH

Libor: Bank of England implicated in secret recording
A secret recording that implicates the Bank of England in Libor rigging has been uncovered by BBC Panorama. The 2008 recording adds to evidence the central bank repeatedly pressured commercial banks during the financial crisis to push their Libor rates down. Libor is the rate at which banks lend to each other, setting a benchmark for mortgages and loans for ordinary customers. The Bank of England said Libor was not regulated in the UK at the time. The recording calls into question evidence given in 2012 to the Treasury select committee by former Barclays boss Bob Diamond and Paul Tucker, the man who went on to become the deputy governor of the Bank of England. Libor, the London Interbank Offered Rate, tracks how much it costs banks to borrow money from each other. As such it is a big influence on the cost of mortgages and other loans. In the recording, a senior Barclays manager, Mark Dearlove, instructs Libor submitter Peter Johnson, to lower his Libor rates. He tells him: "The bottom line is you're going to absolutely hate this... but we've had some very serious pressure from the UK government and the Bank of England about pushing our Libors lower." Banks have already been fined more than £6bn for allowing submitters to be influenced by requests from traders or bosses to take into account the bank's commercial interests, such as trading positions. Chris Philp MP, who sits on the Treasury committee, said: "It sounds to me like those people giving evidence, particularly Bob Diamond and Paul Tucker were misleading parliament, that is a contempt of parliament, it's a very serious matter and I think we need to urgently summon those individuals back before parliament to explain why it is they appear to have misled MPs. It's extremely serious." BBC NEWS

Struggling credit card holders could see fees and charges waived
The Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) has announced a raft of measures to help people in persistent credit card debt, including waiving or cancelling interest and charges if customers cannot afford to curb their liabilities through a repayment plan. The watchdog found that 3.3 million people have fallen into a persistent credit card debt spiral, where all their money is spent on repaying interest, while the total debt is never lowered. Debt campaigners welcomed the announcement, but warned that the proposals do not address the fundamental question of how credit cards trap people in “persistent debt”. Andrew Bailey, chief executive of the FCA, said credit card companies are reluctant to intervene to help these customers because they are profitable business. Persistent debt can be very expensive – costing customers on average around £2.50 for every £1 repaid – and can obscure underlying financial problems. Because these customers remain profitable, firms have few incentives to intervene. The proposals drawn up by the FCA would force firms to contact customers and ask them to make faster repayments if they are struggling with persistent debt. Those customers that remain in debt for another year-and-a-half would then be put on a repayment plan. However, customers could have their card suspended if they fail to respond, or can make the repayments but refuse to do so. Credit card holders that cannot afford any of the options would be offered even greater help from firms, such as cutting or waving their interest or charges. GUARDIAN

Credit Suisse embroiled in major global tax evasion investigation
In a fresh blow to Switzerland’s attempts to clean up its reputation for banking secrecy and tax evasion, the Netherlands is leading a coalition of five tax authorities conducting a criminal investigation into undeclared “black” accounts and money laundering. Raids on homes and offices took place across the Netherlands and France on Thursday and Friday. Taxpayers and high ranking bank employees in Britain, Germany and Australia are under investigation. Dutch prosecutors acted after receiving a tip-off on assets hidden within “offshore accounts and policies”, estimated in the millions of euros. They say the information concerns a single Swiss bank, but have so far declined to name the target. However, Credit Suisse confirmed on Friday that its offices in London, Paris and Amsterdam had been searched by local authorities concerning “client tax matters”, and that it was cooperating with their inquiries. The action has prompted fresh calls for an end to Swiss banking secrecy. If proven, evasion on this scale would amount to a “global criminal enterprise”, one tax expert said. The raids sparked a diplomatic row between Switzerland and the Netherlands, with officials in Geneva furious at what they claim was a deliberate decision to keep them in the dark. Two arrests have been made in the Netherlands, where the haul of assets seized from safes and homes in the Hague and other areas included property, cash, 35 paintings worth €1.2m (£1m), a luxury Mercedes, and a 1 kilogram gold ingot. The country’s Fiscal Information and Investigation Services (FIOD) has reportedly been handed the names of 3,800 account holders and details of 55,000 accounts by a Dutch informant. Dozens of Dutch taxpayers are under investigation. More actions would follow in the coming weeks, the agency said in a statement released on Friday. France announced that 25 customs agents had carried out raids across the country as part of an inquiry into “aggravated money laundering and financial fraud” which began on 26 April last year. Investigators have found “several thousand” bank accounts opened in Switzerland by French taxpayers who are suspected of having failed to declare them to the authorities. Alex Cobham, chief executive of Tax Justice Network, said: “Allegations of laundering and tax evasion on this scale would, if proven, indicate the bank was effectively a global criminal enterprise.” GUARDIAN

Travel websites ticked off over 'misleading' claims
Websites that show bargain prices for flights, hotels and other travel bookings, are not giving customers accurate information, say European consumer protection authorities. The first price shown was often much lower than the final price, they said. Some offers that look too good to be true, are - because when you click to buy they aren't available. The Consumer Protection Cooperation body said the 235 websites that they had identified would be required to correct the problems. If websites failed to comply, national authorities could pursue legal proceedings, it said. Key findings: In one third of cases the first price shown was not the same as the final price to pay; In one fifth of cases promotional offers were not really available; In nearly one third of cases the way the total price was calculated was not clear; In one quarter of cases prompts on scarcity (eg "only 2 left") only applied to availability on that particularly website, which wasn't made clear. The CPC screened the sector in October 2016, covering 28 European countries. It checked a total of 352 sites, including ones offering to book accommodation, transport tickets and car rental. Some were price comparison websites. It also found that over a fifth of the sites it looked at presented consumer reviews in an unclear way, sometimes throwing doubt over their truthfulness. BBC NEWS

MPs urge crackdown on excessive pay to rebuild public trust in business
Among their wide-ranging recommendations, the MPs’ committee called for a ban on long-term investment plans, complex multi-year pay deals that have been criticised for masking the true extent of huge awards to executives and for encouraging short-term thinking. Responding to the gulf in pay that has emerged between bosses and average workers, MPs on the business, energy and industrial strategy select committee also called on firms to publish pay ratios between top executives and other employees and to put workers on remuneration committees. The MPs urged the government to grant the corporate governance watchdog more powers to hold company directors to account. The committee highlighted revelations that workers at Sports Direct were being paid less than the legal minimum wage and the demise of BHS, which cost 11,000 jobs and prompted MPs to declare that the retailer had been subject to “systematic plunder” by former owners Sir Philip Green, Dominic Chappell and their respective “hangers-on”. It said that gathering evidence for the report, MPs were told by one witness “pay was now so complex that executives themselves do not always understand their own remuneration”. It also heard LTIPs could distort executive behaviour, with chief executives tailoring decisions to affect the share price around the time their shares were due to vest. The MPs’ new report recommended companies establish stakeholder advisory panels, including workers, consumers, and suppliers. It also suggested workers be represented on remuneration committees and for the chairs of those committees to be expected to resign if fewer than 75% of shareholders fail to approve the company’s pay policy. But it stopped short of demanding a worker representatives on boards – something proposed and then watered down by Theresa May last year. The Institute of Directors said that call reflected its own longstanding concerns about the lack of transparency in the governance of unlisted firms. “A code for private companies is supported by two-thirds of IoD members and should be established for the largest firms,” said IoD director general Stephen Martin. The TUC welcomed that and other recommendations. “British people are fed up with the bad behaviour of big business. Workers are getting a raw deal, and our economy is harmed by short-term thinking in the board room. Reform is badly needed, and the government should take up many of the excellent ideas in this report,” said the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady. GUARDIAN

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