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Everything posted by kjw

  1. Indeed. I recall when unions (plausibly or not) were accused of wrecking the economy. I'd say that these days, the wreckers are not unions but management or in particular, bankers.
  2. Frances O'Grady, TUC General Secretary. Quote: ' The statistics may tell us that growth has returned and that we are in the middle of a recovery, but it doesn't feel like that. Across the workforce – except at the top – wages still lag behind the cost of living. Unemployment may be relatively low, but job quality is too. After the crash everyone agreed that we needed to rebalance the economy. But it has not happened. So far, growth has more to do with consumer spending on the back of house-price inflation than investment, exports and wealth creation. Instead we seem to be rebalancing the workforce. The good jobs that went in the crash have been joined by the victims of austerity economics as public servants have got the boot or not been replaced, even while their pay is driven down. No wonder NHS staff have joined local government workers and teachers in industrial action ballots. For sure, some decent jobs have been created, but far too few. Insecurity and low pay are the new normal. Many want full-time work but are stuck part-time. Others live hand to mouth on zero-hours contracts or agency work. Many work in jobs that fail to use their skills and talents. Others work very long hours to make ends meet. Self-employment has grown, some fulfilling but some bogus – and much poorly paid. Some economists and business leaders talk of a productivity puzzle – they cannot work out why we are not producing more, given our high employment levels. But there is no great mystery. It is the obvious result of too many low-pay, low-skill and low-productivity jobs in low-investment workplaces. The same business leaders talk up what they call labour-market flexibility, but it drives a vicious circle of a low-commitment economy that fails to put decent wages into consumer wallets or a good tax take into government coffers' [more at link] http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/aug/30/low-pay-frances-o-grady-tuc-commentary
  3. Osborne, lying? I'm sorry but I'm not buying that! Quote: 'George Osborne is facing calls to apologise in Parliament after the official statistics body ruled he used “inappropriate” figures to trumpet the Government’s success in cracking down on tax avoidance in the last Budget. The Chancellor told MPs in March that HM Revenue and Customs was “collecting twice as much [tax] as before” through new measures to target super-rich individuals and multinational companies, who employ expensive accountants and lawyers to shelter their vast wealth in overseas tax havens. However, inquiries by The Independent and Private Eye established that Mr Osborne was not referring to physical money already banked by the State, and was only outlining a target of tax collected for this Parliament – one that was based on a completely different measurement from the previous five-year election cycle. The case was referred to Sir Andrew Dilnot, head of the UK Statistics Authority, who has now concluded that direct comparisons between the figures was “inappropriate”.' [more at link] http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/george-osborne-accused-of-lying-to-parliament-on-his-hard-line-against-corporate-tax-avoiders-9692327.html
  4. And also wasting extra minutes of their life they can never claim back.
  5. First they came for our hoovers... Quote: 'The European Union is considering pulling the plug on high-wattage hair dryers, lawn mowers and electric kettles in a follow up to its controversial ban on powerful vacuum cleaners. The power of hairdryers could be reduced by as much as 30 per cent in order to be more eco-friendly, a draft study commissioned by Brussels suggests, threatening many of the models favoured by hairdressers and consumers for speedy blow-dries. New proposals are expected next spring to outlaw dozens of household electrical devices that European officials regard as using too much electricity, as part of plans to meet EU targets on energy efficiency. Current EU legislation covers televisions, washing machines, refrigerators and vacuum cleaners but not most smaller electrical appliances. A study ordered by the European Commission, currently in draft form, has identified up to 30 electrical appliances including lawn mowers, smart phones and kettles that could be covered by the EU's Ecodesign directive outlawing high-wattage devices.' [more at link] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/11061538/EU-to-ban-high-energy-hair-dryers-smartphones-and-kettles.html
  6. Local authorities were unable to collect up to 40% of council tax due from low-income households that had the charge imposed on them for the first time last year. Council tax – set on average at £5 a week – has been levied on the poorest households in England since April last year as part of a cut in benefits. But such is the squeeze on household budgets, say campaigners, that the poor cannot afford to pay even these small sums. The result has been widespread non-payment. Nationally, more than a fifth of council tax charged to working-age claimants was unpaid at the end of 2013-14. The figures, obtained from responses from 140 councils to Freedom of Information requests by the anti-cuts group False Economy, reveal that some of the biggest towns and cities were left chasing millions of pounds from the poor. Liverpool collected 61% of council tax due from the poor, leaving the city short by £3.5m. In Birmingham, the non-payment rate among the vulnerable was 30%, leaving the council seeking to recover £3m in lost revenue. Leeds, Nottingham and Sheffield were all chasing more than £2m each in tax from those on the lowest incomes. A report published last month by Child Poverty Action Group and the Zacchaeus 2000 Trust said almost 40% of Londoners affected by the cuts had been sent a court summons for council tax debts in 2013-14, with more than 15,000 claimants' debts referred to bailiffs. In Haringey, north London, which collected 80% of the council tax due from benefit claimants, hundreds of households have been taken to court to recover unpaid tax – with non-payers threatened with bankruptcy, repossession and ultimately prison. [more at link] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/27/council-tax-low-income-households-unpaid
  7. Camboudicca himself is on his way to Glasgow to address the Scottish Business Nation, that should be another million Yes votes in the bag
  8. Gordon Brown has appealed to traditional Labour voters to reject Scottish independence by warning that the only beneficiaries would be the wealthiest companies and businessmen. The former Prime Minister said that while the Nationalists “dine out” on ideas of equality, their policies would mean poverty would continue until “doomsday” after separation. He said Alex Salmond’s plans to cut corporation tax by 3p in the pound would mean money being taken from the pensions and welfare system and being handed to the directors and shareholders of the largest firms. Although the SNP have promised voters better state pensions and benefits after separation, Mr Brown said the Nationalists could not afford them as they have laid out no plans for raising the necessary extra tax revenue. He argued that Scottish pensioners receive on average an extra £200 per person in OAP benefits every year their peers across the UK thanks to the Union’s ability to distribute wealth across Britain to where it is most needed. [more at liink] http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scotland/11059308/Gordon-Brown-warns-Labour-voters-independence-will-only-help-rich.html
  9. Good to know they're out chasing the big boys! http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/tax/11048651/HMRC-unmasks-the-30m-tax-evaders-including-a-hairdresser-and-takeaway-owner.html
  10. The PE asset stripping is done so as to make the company look more attractive to shareholders. In the short term it is, and for shareholders who constantly switch their investments around intending to make a fast buck, it works. The problems manifest themselves further down the line. Properties are sold off and rented back, staff numbers slashed and so on. The PE asset strippers leave the firms too lean to cope with market fluctuations and so a slight downturn will see the firm hit real difficulties as there is no 'fat' left to absorb such variations. I have long been an opponent of PE and believe that in its present form as practised by the big funds it should be outlawed.
  11. The reason why care firms go bust is that the owners take too much money out of them. Southern Cross had been asset stripped by a private equity firm before it went bust. The whole thing is a scandal and a big scam. Care homes should not be allowed to be run by profit hungry privateers.
  12. Housing Associations are at enormous risk of financial collapse when HB ends and UC takes over. The guaranteed rent income from HB which pays the majority of HA income will be replaced by the need to collect individual rent payments from thousands of tenants, many if whom have never had to pay rent and may struggle to budget their seemingly much higher monthly income correctly. HAs already are and will need to spend far more money collecting rent and assisting tenants than has previously been the case. Like it or not, tenants need to take responsibility for paying their rent in line with the tenancy they signed. Paying 4 weeks rent into their rent account before they switch to UC is to everyone's advantage surely? .
  13. People on benefits are being told by housing associations to make extra rent payments in advance from now on, to avoid ending up in financial difficulties and then in court once they are transferred to the new system of universal credit, the Observer has learned. The instructions to people on housing benefit, which are causing alarm among tenants and charities, reflect concern among housing providers that people will default on payments when they have to pay rent themselves, a month in advance, under the new system. At present most rent payments for people on housing benefit are sent direct to landlords. But when universal credit is introduced nationally between now and 2017, tenants will receive one lump sum covering all their benefits and be expected to meet their housing costs themselves, a month in advance. The Town and Country housing association, which provides 9,000 affordable homes in 22 local authority areas in Kent, Sussex, Surrey and south London, has told its tenants who receive housing benefit to hand over £14.60 extra a month until they are a month in credit, so they can meet the first rent payment once they are on universal credit. If they do not, their tenancies could be in doubt. "This will ensure that when you transfer to universal credit you will not be in arrears which could put your tenancy at risk," the association has said in local newsletters. [more at link] http://www.theguardian.com/society/2014/aug/16/housing-benefit-claimants-rent-universal-credit
  14. To be serious for a moment, IHT is only ever paid by the living, not the dead; I know of no case of the taxman delivering a summons to the Pearly Gates!
  15. Ass covering exercise in case someone decides not to die?
  16. People suspected of trying to avoid inheritance tax could have to pay before they die under proposals being considered by ministers. HM Revenue & Customs could demand "accelerated payment" where savers are using potentially illegal avoidance schemes. The measures - at the consultation stage - are a response to concern that growing numbers of people are using trusts to shield their estates from inheritance tax. But Stuart Phillips, of tax planning firm the Private Office, said the policy could have "unintended consequences". [More at link] http://news.sky.com/story/1316515/pay-before-you-die-inheritance-tax-plan
  17. “Barclays Bank is backing the search for shale gas in Yorkshire and could fund fracking in the area as early as next year [ie 2014!, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.” (Nov. 2013) “Third Energy, which is 97pc-owned by Barclays Natural Resource Investments, a private equity arm of the bank, took shale rock samples while drilling in Kirby Misperton, Ryedale, this summer and is now analysing their potential.” “The company has drilling rights across a 154 square mile area around the Vale of Pickering, which sits above part of the Bowland shale formation.” Source: Sunday Telegraph, November 2013 The article goes on to say that “The British Geological Survey estimates that 1,300 trillion cubic feet of shale gas lies within the Bowland, which stretches from Cheshire to Yorkshire. If 10pc could be extracted it could meet UK needs for 40 years.” The article fails to mention that similar “meet our needs for 40 years” estimates in California turned out to be huge over-estimates, with over two-thirds of Californians now supporting a halt to fracking. Neither does it mention that fracking is an approach that has ruined peoples’ lives (see videos on this site re USA and Australia), and that other less disruptive means of obtaining energy are also available. http://frackfreeryedale.org/?p=195
  18. Charts real earnings 1864-2014. Lower now than ever before. https://plot.ly/~edmundconway/24/uk-real-wages-five-year-rate-1864-2014/
  19. Most people who lose their jobs will soon have to wait five weeks before they get any cash help, according to small print in the Universal Credit rules uncovered by the TUC as it launches a new campaign today (Wednesday), Saving Our Safety Net. A YouGov poll reports opposition of almost four to one to the five-week wait. Currently most newly unemployed people have to wait two weeks they get their first benefit payment. But under new Universal Credit rules people will not be eligible for any help for a week and must then wait a further month for their benefits to be paid in arrears. This means that, other than the few who receive emergency help, any new claimants will have to wait at least five weeks for any cash. In a new report Universal Credit: the problem of delay in benefit payments published today (Wednesday), the TUC says that this new and deliberate delay to payments means that worries about money are likely to distract new claimants from looking for work, drive them into the hands of payday loan lenders and increase demand on food banks. [more at link] Yet another UC success story http://www.tuc.org.uk/social-issues/poverty-social-exclusion/welfare-and-benefits/tax-credits/newly-unemployed-and?utm_source=dlvr.it&utm_medium=twitter
  20. The UK loses billions of pounds every year because of poor investment in transport and broadband, according to a new report. The RSA City Growth Commission claims the economy has seen 5% less growth per year between 2000 and 2010 as a result of "chronic" underinvestment outside London. It urges an overhaul of transport, housing and broadband provision. Northern UK cities should be prioritised. [more at link] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28319739
  21. Ministers are drawing up plans to allow doctors and nurses to own and run the hospitals they work in as part of a radical blueprint to change the way the NHS is run. Under proposals to be floated tomorrow, staff could be able to take over hospitals and other NHS responsibilities and run them as new mutual companies in the style of the department store chain John Lewis. Staff would then become “shareholders” in the new company with the power to dismiss the chief executive and board members as well as set policy and targets for the new organisation. Ministers are not ruling out the possibility that staff could even be given a financial stake in the organisations for which they work – sharing bonuses if their hospital makes a profit on NHS work. The new policy comes after an independent review, led by the independent think-tank the King’s Fund, found what it described as “compelling evidence” that NHS organisations with high levels of staff engagement delivered better quality care. By contrast, hospitals like the one at the centre of the Mid Staffordshire scandal had low levels of staff engagement. http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/health-and-families/health-news/new-government-policy-for-the-nhs-could-allow-doctors-and-nurses-to-own-hospitals-9606023.html
  22. Institute for Fiscal Studies finds people in age group have found jobs hard to find "Pay, employment and incomes have all been hit hardest for those in their 20s. A crucial question is whether this difficult start will do lasting damage to their employment and earnings prospects... A quarter forced to live at home with heir parents also had higher than average disposable incomes, though the need for parental subsidies is likely an indication of the low pay rates and often insecure working practices on offer to younger workers." http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/jul/15/young-adults-bearing-brunt-of-recession
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