Fuel Duty To Rise From Midnight

(BBC) – A TWO PENCE RISE IN FUEL DUTY will come into effect from midnight, the third increase in nine months.

Stephen Glaister, director of road users pressure group RAC Foundation, told the BBC the government’s latest rise ‘will hit everybody hard.’

When VAT is included, the increase will actually total 2.3p. The average price of petrol across the UK is about 105p per litre.

The government says the extra duty is needed to help fund public investment.

AA president Edmund King said the timing of the rise was ‘pretty dire,’ at a time when the UK economy was trying to exit recession.

Mr King said its members were already having to cut back on car journeys due to the high price of fuel, and that this would only increase following the latest rise, meaning the government’s revenues will not actually rise.

The Petrol Retailers Association pointed out that the price of fuel would increase again when VAT increases from 15% to 17.5% at the end of the year.

‘It would have been preferable for the government to defer this increase until 2010,’ its spokesman said.

Jo Tanner, director of communications at the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said existing high fuel prices were already having a ‘huge affect’ on its members.

She said the freight transport sector had already seen its fuel bills rise by £800m since last December, at the same time as a 50% increase in insolvencies.

Richard George, a road and climate campaigner at the Campaign for Better Transport, said the government should be spending the duty increase on public transport, and not just putting it into the government’s general budget.

‘If the money was going into public transport, drivers would be better off as there would be less cars on the road, less congestion for them,’ he said.

Supermarket group Morrisons said it would not be increasing the cost of fuel at its forecourts until 6 September.

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Expenses Proposals Get Watered Down

(Telegraph) – MPS WILL NOT BE PROSECUTED for failing to declare their financial interests with a new watchdog — set up in the wake of the expenses scandal.

It is the latest climb-down by ministers who are desperately scrambling to get the new proposals in place before Parliament closes down for its long summer recess next week.

It has led some. including Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader, to accuse the main parties of blocking attempts to clean up the Commons after the disclosures by The Daily Telegraph.

Baroness Royall, the Leader of the Lords, backed down yesterday in the face of opposition from peers to key parts of the Parliamentary Standards Bill.

She removed a section from the Bill that would have created an offence of failing to comply with the register of financial interests that will be maintained by new Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (IPSA), which is being created by the new Bill to take the running of expenses out of the hands of the Commons.

New criminal offences are also being brought in to apply to MPs, as Gordon Brown attempts to show he is trying to reform the system.

However, even before yesterday’s move in the Lords, ministers had already agreed to remove IPSA’s role in enforcing the allowances or financial conduct regime and the offence of paid advocacy.

Lady Royall did reject moves to take out the offence of an MP making a claim for an allowance using ‘false or misleading’ information; but said the Government had given ground on other parts of the Bill because ministers had ‘recognised the strength of feeling’ expressed by peers.

The slew of concessions means the plans are now so watered-down from the original proposals that some are questioning their value as a suitable response to the expenses scandal.

MPs in the Commons have already succeeded in voting down some key parts of the Bill which is being rushed through by Jack Straw, the Justice Secretary.

Yesterday Mr Straw said that despite the MPs’ expenses scandal, Westminster was ‘very clean and transparent’ compared to politics in many other countries or to the democratic system of previous decades.

He accepted that the expenses row following disclosures by The Daily Telegraph had been ‘profoundly damaging’ for Parliament; but said that politicians in other countries looked on in amazement at the controversy caused in the UK by sums of ‘a few thousand pounds.’

Giving evidence to the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Mr Straw also made the surprising statement that Winston Churchill would not have survived the scrutiny MPs are now exposed to.

… (21/07/2009) – New Law Passed To Clean-Up Parliament

… (TimesOnline, 24/08/2009) – MPs hijack expenses enquiry

Workers Can Still Accrue Holiday Entitlement While Sick

(Telegraph) – THE HOUSE OF LORDS HAS RULED that workers can still accrue holiday time while sick — even if the absence is long term.

The lords agreed with a claim by Keith Ainsworth, a former tax inspector in Chester, who complained that HM Revenue and Customs wrongly made a deduction from his wages involving holiday pay when he was ill.

In the judgement, Lord Rodger of Earlsferry concluded workers also had a right to carry over holiday leave, which they were unable to take while ill, into the following year’s allocation — or take pay in lieu.

Lord Brown of Eaton-under-Heywood noted: ‘The purpose of a “holiday” from work is, at least in part, for the psychological and social well-being of the employee.’

He continued to say that holiday could be considered as similar to wages in terms of being something that was due to the employee whether they were ill or not.

The ruling means employees who return to work from a year of illness would legally be entitled to four weeks’ holiday immediately upon their return.

Tim Marshall, partner and UK head of employment at lawyers DLA Piper, said: ‘The judgment will increase the complexity of managing absence from work by allowing workers to take accrued holiday when they return to work — even after many months or more than a year off.

‘Until now the UK’s Working Time Regulations required employees to use all holiday leave within a year or lose it — a cost and time efficient way to manage leave.

‘Allowing workers to accrue statutory paid holiday entitlement during sickness absence will have serious financial and practical ramifications for employers across the UK.’

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services Union, said: ‘This is a victory for common sense.’

Warm Front Scheme Extended

CASTLE POINT BOROUGH COUNCIL HAS ANNOUNCED that the maximum grant for new gas central heating has been increased from £2,700 to £3,500; and the maximum grant for oil heating has been increased from £4,000 to £6,000.

Residents can apply for additional work, even if they have previously made a successful application.

Residents who have paid a top-up for work, which has not yet been carried out, may also be entitled to a refund up to the new maximum grant levels.

Darling’s 50 Minutes

ALISTAIR DARLING SURPRISED MANY by choosing to present an optimistic view of the UK economy in this afternoon’s budget. Despite the fact that he expected it to shrink by 3.5% in 2009 (its worst performance since 1945), he predicted growth would return later this year; reach 1.25% in 2010; and grow to 3.5% in 2011. His assumptions enable him to say that the government’s predicted long term trend of 2.75% growth remains unchanged.

This time last year, Mr Darling predicted public borrowing of £43 billion; but it actually turned out to be £90 billion (over twice his estimate). Similarly, he had projected borrowing of £38 billion for this year; but has been forced to revise his estimate to £175 billion.

More worrying is the Red Book figure for guilts that the government intends to sell this year to raise funds. Just three weeks ago, that figure stood at £150 billion; but it has been revised to £220 billion in this budget — more than the amount that is currently outstanding today.

Government debt, from a preferred level of 40% of GDP, rose to 57% last year and is now projected at 79% for 2009. The danger is that such leveraging will result in the UK’s triple-A credit rating being downgraded, and for the costs of debt to rise appreciably. Moreover, if the UK’s credit rating is downgraded, it may prove impossible for the government to sell the quantity of guilts it needs to raise the necessary funds.

As Mr Darling sat down, the IMF predicted that the UK economy will decline by 4.1% this year and 0.4% next year — far worse than his own announcements.

The chancellor predicted that the Consumer Price Index (the government’s preferred measure of inflation) will fall to 1% by the end of the year; but that capital investment would continue at historically high levels until 2012. However, when you look at the figures, it is clear that he is actually squeezing public spending by saying it will grow only by 0.7% per year from 2011 — a lower rate than when Mrs Thatcher was in power. There is also a provision of £3 billion in efficiency savings expected in the area of Health and Education, which, in effect, is a real-time cut.

Mr Darling expected the public finances to be back in balance by 2018.

Key points of his speech were as follows:-

Alcohol, tobacco and fuel

  • Alcohol taxes will go up by 2% from midnight. This is likely to put 1p on an average pint of beer.
  • Tax on tobacco will go up by 2% from 6pm (around 7p per packet).
  • Fuel duty will rise by 2p per litre from September. The fuel escalator will then return to put another 1p on the cost of a litre, above indexation, each April for the next four years.

Benefits

  • Child tax credit to rise by £20 by 2010.
  • Child trust funds for disabled children to rise by £100 a year, £200 a year for severely disabled children.

Car scrappage scheme

  • From next month, until March 2010, motorists will be able to obtain a £2,000 discount on new cars — if they trade in their old banger that is more than 10 years old. (They must be the registered keeper of the car and have had it for at least twelve months).

Environment

  • Britain commits to cut carbon emissions by 34% by 2020.
  • An extra £1bn to help combat climate change by supporting low-carbon industries.
  • £525m for offshore wind projects over the next two years.
  • £435m support for energy efficiency schemes for homes, firms and public buildings.
  • £405m to encourage low-carbon energy and advanced green manufacturing.

Government savings

  • Tax loopholes and schemes identified which could provide £1bn of extra revenue over the next three years if closed.
  • An extra £9bn in efficiency savings is planned.
  • Public spending to be cut from 1.1% next year to 0.7% in 2011-2012.

Help for business

  • Help for loss-making companies extended. They will be able to reclaim more taxes paid in the last three years until November 2010.
  • Businesses’ main capital allowance rate doubled to 40%.
  • New £750m strategic investment fund to help emerging technologies and regionally important sectors.

Housing

  • Scheme to guarantee mortgage backed securities to boost lending.
  • Stamp duty holiday for homes up to £175,000 to be extended to end of year.
  • Extra £80m for shared equity mortgage scheme.
  • £500m to kickstart stalled housing projects —including £100m for local authorities to build energy efficient homes.
  • £50m to upgrade housing for the armed forces.

Jobs and training

  • Government support for economy to protect 500,000 jobs.
  • All long-term unemployed under 25s to be offered job or training.
  • £1.7bn additional resources for Job Centre network.
  • £250m funding to help people get work experience in growth industries.
  • Funding to create 54,000 new places in sixth form education.

Pensioners

  • Grandparents of working age who care for their grandchildren will see that work count towards their entitlement for the basic state pension.
  • Winter fuel allowance to be maintained at higher level (£250 for over 60s and £400 for over-80s) for another year.
  • The basic state pension will be increased by at least 2.5%, regardless of inflation.
  • Savings limit increased from £6,000 to £10,000 (before being taken into consideration for benefits).

Savings

  • Annual limit for tax-free ISAs to rise to £10,200 for over-50s this year and for everyone else next year. (The cash ISA limit rises to £5,100).

Tax

  • Income tax for those earning more than £150,000 a year (currently 45%) will rise to 50% from April 2010, and those earning over £113,000 will lose the personal tax allowance.
  • Tax relief on pensions will be reduced for people earning more than £150,000 a year from April 2011.

… (24/04/2009) – Chancellor’s Forecasts Undermined By Latest GDP Figures

… (21/05/2009) – Britain’s AAA Rating Under Threat

New HIP Requirement For Home Sellers

(Directgov) – CHANGES HAVE BEEN INTRODUCED to improve the content of HIPs, and make sure they are available sooner.

From today, most sellers will need to compile a Home Information Pack (HIP) — before they can place their property on the market. The exceptions are as follows:-

  • Properties where there is no marketing, for example if you are selling to a member of your family.
  • Non-residential properties.
  • Properties limited by law to use as holiday accommodation or occupation for less than 11 months per year.
  • Mixed sales, for example a shop with flat.
  • Sales of portfolios of properties, for example selling two properties together.
  • Properties not being sold with completely vacant possession, for example with a sitting tenant.
  • Unsafe properties and properties due to be demolished.
  • Properties sold through the ‘Right to Buy’, ‘Right to Acquire’ and ‘Social HomeBuy’ home ownership schemes.

If your property does not fall within one of the above categories, your HIP will need to contain:-

  • Home Information Pack Index.
  • Property Information Questionnaire (PIQ).
  • Energy Performance Certificate (EPC) or Predicted Energy Assessment (PEA).
  • Sustainability information (required for newly built homes).
  • Sale statement.
  • Evidence of title.

If the following documents are unavailable when marketing begins, they should be added to the HIP as soon as they are available. These documents must be included within 28 days of the date the property was first placed on the market:

  • Standard searches (local authority and drainage and water).
  • A copy of the lease for leasehold properties.
  • Common-hold documents, where appropriate.

An example HIP, in PDF format, can be downloaded from the government’s Communities Website.

There is no shortage of HIP providers setting-up shop and jumping on the bandwagon. Google reports 402,000 entries — with prices in the range of £125 to £200. That is, roughly, about one HIP provider for every sixty-three estate agents. (Google reports 25,100,000 entries for them!).

… (23/08/2009) – Canvey Needs New Housing AND A Third Road

Basic Holiday Entitlement Increased

(Directgov) – FROM 1 APRIL 2009, all workers have a statutory right to at least 5.6 weeks’ paid annual leave (that is at least 28 days’ paid holiday if you work five days a week). Your employer could choose to include bank holidays in the 5.6 weeks.

Wednesday saw new government legislation that increased the previous twenty-four day minimum annual holiday entitlement in the UK, for those working five days a week, to a total of twenty-eight days.

To work-out your minimum entitlement, take the number of days you work each week and multiply it by 5.6.

The 5.6 figure is equivalent to 12.07% of the hours worked.

The Directgov site provides a number of example workings, and also provides an online calculator to compute entitlements accurately.

… (05/05/2009) – Pay Rates Cut To Fund New Holiday Entitlements

… (10/06/2009) – Workers Can Still Accrue Holiday Entitlement While Sick