Berlin to freeze rents for 5 years

“… Berlin’s state cabinet has agreed on a rent freeze for five years to counter rising housing costs in the German capital.

The city’s leftwing coalition government wants to freeze the rent for apartments built before 2014, according to a report by the German news agency dpa.

Only a minority of Berliners own their homes or apartments and rent has been rising sharply in recent years, forcing many to move outside the city. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/22/germany-berlin-cabinet-agree-five-year-rent-freeze?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

“Seaside residents dominate personal debt league in England and Wales”

Owl says: Has anyone seen policies to reverse this trend from our Local Enterprise Partnership? Or even from EDDC? Or DCC?

Hint: development in Exmouth is the “traditional” kind the article points out as leading to problems.

“Seaside towns and cities dominate the list of areas with the highest numbers of people getting into serious difficulties with debt, according to new figures.

Scarborough, the largest resort on the Yorkshire coast, ranked second out of 347 local authorities in England and Wales for personal insolvencies, while Torbay in Devon – which includes the town of Torquay – came third, said the accountancy firm UHY Hacker Young.

Plymouth, on the south coast of Devon, was ranked fourth, while Blackpool was in sixth place.

However, it was the city of Stoke-on-Trent in the Midlands which had the highest rate of personal insolvencies, recording just over 51 per 10,000 adults in 2018. The national average was 25, said the firm.

The insolvency rate includes personal bankruptcies, debt relief orders and individual voluntary arrangements….

Other coastal locations or regions featured in the firm’s “top 20” included Weymouth and Portland in Dorset, which includes the resort of Weymouth, which was in 12th place (39.6 insolvencies per 10,000 adults); the Isle of Wight, in 13th place (39.3 per 10,000); Great Yarmouth in Norfolk, in 14th place (39.2 per 10,000); Cornwall, in 17th place (38.5 per 10,000); and Hastings in East Sussex, in 19th place (38 per 10,000).

The accountancy firm said many coastal towns outside south-east England had struggled to replace their traditional industries with faster growth sectors such as financial services and technology. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/money/2019/oct/21/seaside-residents-dominate-personal-debt-league-in-england-and-wales?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Bigger problems than Brexit?

“Lord Mervyn King calls for general election to provide mandate for either Leave or Remain.

Brexit is stopping Britain from addressing deep problems with its economy, a former Bank of England governor has warned.

Mervyn King called for an election and a new parliament to resolve the current impasse, claiming that “most people think that this has gone on for far too long and just have the view – ‘just do it’”.

He added that it did not matter whether people voted to remain or leave the European Union.

Lord King was speaking after MPs voted to delay a meaningful vote on the prime minister’s deal, forcing Boris Johnson to write to the EU to ask for a further extension to the Brexit process.

“It’s frustrating parliament can’t make up its mind and hasn’t been able to vote but let’s hope they do,” Lord King told Sky News after his speech at the International Monterary Fund’s annual meetings in Washington.

He warned the all-consuming nature of Brexit meant politicians were not looking at the UK’s underlying economic challenges.

“We have one of the lowest savings rates in the British economy of any country in the G20 save perhaps for Argentina. We’re not saving enough to finance our pensions or care for the elderly, or to finance infrastructure.

“These are the big challenges. What do we do about the education of 50 per cent of people who don’t go to college or university? It’s a great shame [Brexit] has dragged on so long.”

Although he claimed that Britain was “in the middle of the worst political and constitutional crisis for arguably several hundred years”, Lord King downplayed the impact Brexit could have on the UK and world economies.

“The decision to leave the EU is not likely to have a major impact on the UK economy in any way… I think there’s an awful lot of bogus quantification going on to justify positions held for other reasons,” he said. “I don’t honestly believe that Brexit has any great significance even for the rest of Europe, let alone the rest of the world. I don’t think the long-run economic consequences of the UK leaving the EU are particularly large.”

But he warned the global economy was in “great stagnation”, having grown more slowly and for a longer period than before the Great Depression of the 1930s, with levels of debt higher than they were before the 2008 financial crash.

Lord King, who governed the UK’s central bank for a decade until 2013, asserted the global economy would not be likely to suffer another financial crisis in the next 12 months.

But he warned of a global low-growth problem that wouldn’t be solved by another cut in interest rates, exacerbated by “extraordinary uncertainty”, and admitted “no one knows” whether another financial crisis is on the cards.

“We need a much wider set of policies to get out of this,” Lord King said.

The UK economy unexpectedly shrank 0.2 per cent in this year’s second financial quarter – its first contraction since 2012.”

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/brexit-economy-mervyn-king-bank-england-election-recession-debt-a9163531.html

Nearly 75% of government contractors are based in tax havens

“Almost three-quarters of companies who have been given major government contracts have operations based in tax havens, according to a new report.

Value Added, published on Sunday by the thinktank Demos, reveals that 25 of the government’s 34 strategic suppliers – organisations that receive £100m or more in revenue from the government – operate in offshore centres.

According to estimates, they account for about a fifth of total central government procurement spend. Of these, 19 had operations in jurisdictions included on the EU’s “blacklist” or “greylist” of countries that are considered to be non-compliant with EU international standards for “good tax behaviour”, according to the report.

The Labour MP and former chair of the public accounts committee, Margaret Hodge, said it was “perverse that the government continues to pay significant sums of taxpayer money to big corporations that practise tax avoidance on an alarming scale”.

There are claims that aggressive use of tax havens can distort competition.

The Labour peer, Lord Haskel, added: “For too long large international tech companies have failed to pay their fair share of tax while being rewarded with government contracts, leaving British companies at a competitive disadvantage.”

The Demos report states: “Large multinational companies, for example, continue to squeeze their tax contributions ever lower: the OECD estimates that US$100–$240bn (£78bn-£186bn) is lost globally in revenue each year from base erosion and profit shifting by multinational companies.” …”

https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/oct/20/tax-havens-uk-government-pays-millions-strategic-suppliers?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Time to ditch Barclays, before it ditches more of us?

“More than 120 MPs have accused Barclays of abandoning its most vulnerable customers amid a growing backlash over the bank’s move to stop its savers withdrawing cash from post offices.

In a damning letter to chief executive Jes Staley, the MPs criticised the bank for the ‘retrograde decision’, which they warned will only add to the ‘cash crisis’.

The politicians, co-ordinated by Labour MP Chris Elmore, urged the bank to reconsider and offered to meet American Mr Staley.

The Daily Mail has been calling on the banking giant to reverse its decision and has encouraged readers affected by it to write to Barclays.

The 124 MPs said they were ‘extremely disappointed’ by Barclays. Their letter said: ‘Quite simply, amidst the current uncertainty many people face around access to cash and wider banking services, this decision appears to be a retrograde step which will impact your poorest customers hardest.

‘It sends a message – rightly or wrongly – that those who cannot properly access the digital economy will have the carpet dragged from under their feet as our high street banks continue to abandon the communities that have sustained them for decades.’

Barclays faced a huge backlash after announcing it would stop its customers from withdrawing cash at post offices in January. The decision is estimated to save the bank £7 million a year, and comes after 3,312 high street bank and building society branches closed their doors between January 2015 and August this year.

At least 481 were Barclays branches, according to the consumer group Which?.

Gareth Shaw, head of money at Which?, said: ‘Barclays has shown real disregard to the needs of its customers through its reckless move to cease cash withdrawals from the Post Office. MPs are right to challenge this ill-conceived decision that risks leaving many of their constituents facing an uphill struggle just to access the cash they need.

In a damning letter to chief executive Jes Staley, the MPs criticised the bank for the ‘retrograde decision’, over the bank’s move to stop its savers withdrawing cash from post offices, which they warned will only add to the ‘cash crisis’

‘We’re calling on the Government to urgently intervene with legislation that protects cash for as long as it is needed.’

Free-to-use cash machines are also disappearing at an alarming rate. Some 500 were closed every month last year, according to the ATM network Link.

The Access To Cash Review, an independent investigation into the cash crisis, found that about 17 per cent of the UK’s adult population – 8 million people – would find it difficult to function in a cashless society.

Natalie Ceeney, chairman of the Access To Cash Review, said: ‘As [the Daily Mail] has pointed out, this is affecting customers across the country especially those who are older, poorer, living in a remote area or may be disabled. This will be filling up MPs’ postbags, so I’m glad to see widespread support for the campaign.’

Banking trade body UK Finance has repeatedly directed customers who do not live near cash machines or bank branches to the 11,500 post offices across the country which offer everyday banking services. Barclays was also sending out this message as recently as June.

A petition urging Barclays to reverse the decision had nearly 9,500 signatures last night. …”

https://www.thisismoney.co.uk/money/article-7585989/Post-Office-cash-ban-Barclays-customers-poorest-124-MPs-tell-bank.html

Unemployment much higher than official figures (but not in Exeter)

“Millions more people in Britain are without a job than shown by official unemployment figures, according to a study that suggests the jobless rate should be almost three times higher.

According to research from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) and the Centre for Cities thinktank, large levels of “hidden” unemployment in towns and cities across Britain are excluded from the official government statistics.

The study found that more than 3 million people are missing from the headline unemployment rate because they report themselves as economically inactive to government labour force surveys, saying that they believe no jobs are available.

It said the true unemployment rate should rise from 4.6% to 13.2% of the working-age population not in education. The OECD made the estimate by creating an adjusted economic activity rate, which removes students, pensioners, people caring for family and people with health issues.

In a stark analysis of joblessness across the country, the assessment raises the total number of people out of a job who could work from the official level of 1.3 million to almost 4.5 million.

The Centre for Cities said that urban locations faced the highest levels of hidden joblessness. Liverpool had the highest rate in the country, with around one in five working-age adults not in education finding themselves out of work.

At 19.8% compared to 5.8% on official statistics, joblessness in the city ranked just ahead of Sunderland, Dundee, Blackburn and Birmingham.

All the top 10 cities with the highest adjusted economic inactivity rates were found to be outside London and the south-east, and all tended to have weaker economies. In contrast, cities across the south-east had much lower jobless rates, with Crawley recording the lowest adjusted rate of just 2%. Oxford and Exeter were also below 5%. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/business/2019/oct/17/unemployment-figures-should-be-millions-higher-says-research?CMP=Share_iOSApp_Other

Post-Brexit employment law at risk

“Three low paid workers and their union are launching a legal challenge to make the prime minister seek an extension to the Brexit deadline.

The government has promised EU-law derived employment rights will remain in UK law after Brexit.

But if there were a no-deal Brexit, the union says, ministers would have free rein to water down these rights.

And workers could no longer rely on the supremacy of EU law, the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights or Court of Justice.

The Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), is currently relying upon these aspects of EU law in a number of worker’s rights court cases.

The organisation, which represents some 5,000 workers – 1,000 of whom are EU citizens – has now filed court papers to begin legal proceedings.

Key workers’ rights based on EU law include:

minimum paid holiday
working hours regulation
equal pay
protection against discrimination
consultation on redundancy plans …”

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-49960647