“Housebuilder Persimmon faces new investor revolt over ‘highly excessive’ pay”

“Housebuilder Persimmon is braced for a fresh revolt over its controversial bonuses after shareholder advisers urged investors to vote against the company’s ‘highly excessive’ pay.

Advisory group PIRC has instructed investors to oppose the pay report for a second year running at the annual meeting early next month.

Last year, the FTSE 100 company narrowly escaped defeat over its bonus scheme for top bosses, but still suffered a major rebellion.

The scheme included a bonus worth more than £100million for former boss Jeff Fairburn that was trimmed to around £75million after a public backlash. The bonus pot was boosted by the taxpayer-funded Help to Buy scheme.

Persimmon, led by new chairman Roger Devlin, has attempted to draw a line under the scandal by trimming the overall payouts, ousting Fairburn, ensuring that all staff are paid more than the living wage, and making steps towards improving the quality of its homes.

Two other advisory firms Glass Lewis and ISS have both backed changes made by Devlin.

A Persimmon spokesman said the company understood ‘the need for pay restraint and spent 2018 working to ensure Persimmon’s future remuneration is clearly aligned with best practice’.”


“Half of England is owned by less than 1% of the population”

“Half of England is owned by less than 1% of its population, according to new data shared with the Guardian which seeks to penetrate the secrecy that has traditionally surrounded land ownership.

The findings, described as “astonishingly unequal”, suggest that about 25,000 landowners – typically members of the aristocracy and corporations – have control of half of the country.

The figures show that if the land were distributed evenly across the entire population, each person would have almost an acre – an area roughly the size of Parliament Square in central London.

Major owners include the Duke of Buccleuch, the Queen, several large grouse moor estates, and the entrepreneur James Dyson.

While land has long been concentrated in the hands of a small number of owners, precise information about property ownership has been notoriously hard to access. But a combination of the development of digital maps and data as well as pressure from campaigners has made it possible to assemble the shocking statistics.

Jon Trickett, Labour MP and shadow minister for the Cabinet Office, hailed the significance of the findings and called for a full debate on the issue, adding: “The dramatic concentration of land ownership is an inescapable reminder that ours is a country for the few and not the many.”

“It’s simply not right that aristocrats, whose families have owned the same areas of land for centuries, and large corporations exercise more influence over local neighbourhoods – in both urban and rural areas – than the people who live there.”

“Land is a source of wealth, it impacts on house prices, it is a source of food and it can provide enjoyment for millions of people.”

Guy Shrubsole, author of the book in which the figures are revealed, Who Owns England?, argues that the findings show a picture that has not changed for centuries.

“Most people remain unaware of quite how much land is owned by so few,” he writes, adding: “A few thousand dukes, baronets and country squires own far more land than all of middle England put together.”

“Land ownership in England is astonishingly unequal, heavily concentrated in the hands of a tiny elite.” …”


Universal Credit: a cancer sufferer’s story

“A single mum with breast cancer was left with just 84 pence after a Universal Credit nightmare.

Teacher Gillian Sykes found out she had cancer in January and is preparing to have a double mastectomy operation in the summer, Liverpool Echo reports.

She has had to quit work as a supply teacher but says she has been left to ‘fight for survival’ with the Department of Work and Pensions.

Gillian explained how she has been turned down for support and was even made to take bank statements into the job centre just two days after her first draining bout of chemotherapy.

She said she also had money taken away because of the DWP made mistakes over dates – and was eventually left with just 84p to live on, forcing her to rely on hand-outs from family and friends.

Gillian was also told she needed to be looking for work – which the DWP later said was just an ‘automated response.’

The 45-year-old, who lives in Ashton-in-Makerfield with her two teenage children, spoke about the devastating moment she discovered she had cancer.

She said: “I found the lump myself on the 28th December when I was going to bed – and I cried myself to sleep.

“We’ve got a family history of it – its the 20th anniversary of my mum’s death this year.

“I was in an absolute panic and got an appointment shortly after – then two weeks later I was sent to see an oncologist who confirmed what I already knew, that it wasn’t a cyst, it was a solid mass.

“A week later I got given the news and things progressed quite quickly from there. I’ve now had three rounds of chemotherapy. My hair is coming out in handfuls daily.”

“This summer I will be having as double mastectomy – which is not nice.”

Gillian began a lengthy, draining battle with the Department of Work and Pensions to get the benefits she needed to help her through an incredibly difficult time.

After her cancer diagnosis, Gillian said she was never told she qualified for Limited Capability for Work Related Activity – which is supposed to provide extra cash for those who are unable to work.

She was left battling with the department for weeks in a bid to get the extra support.

Gillian said: “To be going through that is enough, only to then to deal with this – after paying into a system as a teacher system that I desperately need help from.

“I’m having battles left, right and centre with Universal Credit – and issues with not being told what I can and can’t claim.

“I’ve had more support from Macmillan nurses than the government.”

“Two days after my first chemotherapy session, I was told I had to take my bank statements in to the job centre to prove that they had taken money from me that they shouldn’t have.

“I’ve had statutory sickpay penalised – I complained and complained. I spoke to a different person on the phone every time.

“I just feel like I’m fighting for survival with benefits, that I shouldn’t be fighting with right now. I’ve got enough stress.”

After spending weeks waiting to find out if she could get the vital extra LCWRA payments, Gillian decided to apply for what is known as a Universal Credit budgeting loan – used to help those who are struggling.

She said: “This particular month was really hard, I rang them to be told by someone that nothing was available to me because ‘all the buttons were greyed out – and we don’t know why.”

“Someone else told me nothing was available because I had earned at least £2,600 in the last six months – well of course I did, I’m a teacher, I was working full time with my agency up until Christmas – so I’ve been punished for actually going to work.

“What I do get from Universal Credit, I’m paying a mortgage, I’ve got two kids. I didn’t expect this to happen to me.

“I have suffered with depression for several years, which has been greatly under control and I have been able to work – and this is now what’s happening on a daily basis when I find out the next step, the next fight.”

After she spoke to the Liverpool Echo, the Department of Work and Pensions told her she did in fact qualify for the extra cash.

The following day she was told she would be backpaid hundreds of pounds that were owed to her, and an apology from the DWP followed.

A spokesman told the ECHO: “We have apologised to Gillian Sykes for the distress caused by this delay and are paying her full arrears.

“She has been placed in the long-term health condition group, meaning she receives a higher level of support and will not be required to seek work.

“We want to ensure that anyone with a health condition gets the support they need, which is why the Government is rolling out a recovery package to support people diagnosed with cancer and over 300,000 people will benefit every year by 2020.”


Deprivation no longer a criterion for extra local authority funding

“Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn this week chose local government funding as the central focus of Prime Ministers Questions, describing the Fair Funding Review as an Orwellian phrase.

Local government organisations have voiced concerns that poor areas of the country will lose out under government proposals to remove deprivation as a factor in calculating the foundation formula for grants to councils.

Speaking in the Commons on Wednesday, Corbyn said that the Fair Funding Review proposals are likely to make things worse for struggling local authorities.

He said: “Tory proposals on the new funding formula for councils will make poorer areas even poorer. “They are removing the word ‘deprivation’ from the funding criteria. “In a phrase that George Orwell would have been very proud of, they have called this the fairer funding formula.”

However, May hit back, saying: “No, that is not what we are doing. “What we are doing is ensuring that we have a fairer funding formula across local authorities. “We are also ensuring that we are making more money available for local authorities to spend.”

However, Corbyn pointed to concerns raised by local authority representatives over the removal of the deprivation factor. He said: “The Society of Local Authority Chief Executives has called the fairer funding formula decision ‘perverse’. “Even before this new formula kicks in, councils are losing out now.

“A Conservative council leader said earlier this year: ‘We are really, really short of money…I mean there is no money.’”

Publication of the review proposals sparked an angry response from urban councils, which said they would be hit by the removal of the current deprivation measure.

And in February, even the County Councils Network (CCN), whose members are set to benefit from the move, said: “Considering recent debate within the sector on deprivation we recognise that the government may wish to consider whether deprivation should be included…”

However, the CCN it said that this should only be done at a small weighting, if its inclusion was supported by evidence, and did not compromise the review’s principles of simplifying the system.

Paul Carter, chairman of the CCN, said: “…if we are to see this review through – and if we are to grasp this opportunity – compromise and pragmatism on all sides of the local government sector, will be necessary.” …”

Corbyn attacks ‘Orwellian’ Fair Funding Review

“Middle classes losing out to ultra-rich”

“Middle-class families are seeing their incomes stagnating as they are squeezed by the ultra-rich taking a bigger slice, says an international report from the OECD economics think tank.

The report says the middle classes are being “hollowed out”, with declining chances of rising prosperity and growing fears of job insecurity.
The OECD says there will be political consequences for Western countries.

It says middle classes have often been the “bedrock of democracy”.
Against a background of political populism and concerns about rising extremism, the report says that traditionally moderate middle-class families are feeling “left behind” and are increasingly likely to support “anti-establishment” movements.

‘Dismal growth’

It warns of a destabilising impact if this section of society – defined as earning between 75% and 200% of the average income – continues to feel that prosperity is slipping away.

In the UK, almost 60% of people live in households classified as being in this middle-income group. …

From an international perspective, the OECD shows a changing economic model, in which high earners have accelerated upwards, while those in the middle have seen “dismal income growth” or a falling back.

Across OECD countries, which include most of the big economies in Western Europe and North America, the 10% of highest earners have increased their income by a third more than middle earners

In the UK, more than a third of middle-income households “report having difficulty making ends meet”, says the OECD

In the United States over the past three decades, the top 1% of earners have increased their slice of total annual income from 11% to 20%

“Middle incomes are barely higher today than they were 10 years ago,” says the analysis.

Loss of trust

The report warns of social consequences if the middle classes lose trust in the system, beyond their own economic self-interest.

It says the middle classes have been important supporters of sectors such as education, health and housing and “good quality public services”. …

The widening gap of incomes has pushed more people to the extremes of rich and poor, so that millennials in their 20s are less likely to be in middle-income households than baby boomers in their 50s and 60s.

“A strong and prosperous middle class is important for the economy and society as a whole,” says the study.

But it says middle-class households feel a sense of “unfairness” and are “increasingly anxious about their economic situation”.


“Second-hand uniform banks” for poor children

“Two million children in England have been sent to school in dirty, ill-fitting or incorrect uniform, a children’s charity has said.

A Mirror probe has uncovered a surge in cash-strapped families who rely on handouts from uniform banks for school kit, including basic essentials such as coats, shoes and even underwear.

Figures last month revealed 4.1 million children are in living in poverty and 70% of those are in working families.

An estimated 13% of UK children live in families who are getting into debt to pay for school kit, with 17% cutting back on basic essentials, including food, to dress children for school, according to Children’s Society research.

In response, dozens of uniform banks and exchanges have been set up across Britain.

Sam Royston, of the Children’s Society, said: “These community groups… are clearly in high demand, but it is distressing so many families are getting to this point in the first place.”

Kate France founded the Uniform Exchange, in Kirklees, West Yorks, which provides kit for pupils at 181 schools.

Requests have surged from 600 in 2017 to 800 last year.

This year they are on track to clothe 1,200 children.

Kate said: “We have seen a huge growth. I have also seen a rise in underwear requests from families who need socks, tights, pants and vests.

“I can’t believe that families haven’t got the basics – I find it really sad.”

Nicola Roderick, 25, of Holmfirth, who uses the Exchange, said: “Spending £20 for a jumper is hard when your disposable income is very little…”

A Government spokesperson said: “We’re helping parents to move into full-time work to give families the best opportunity to move out of poverty.

“Meanwhile we have made clear to schools that when setting uniform policies they should keep costs to a minimum and be mindful that they are affordable for everyone.”


“EU orders UK to recover illegal tax aid from multinationals”

It has been said this was one reason why some people were anxious for an early hard Brexit – and one company mentioned is the Daily Mail!

“BRUSSELS (Reuters) – Britain will have to recover millions of euros from some multinationals after EU antitrust regulators ruled on Tuesday that an exemption in a UK tax scheme was illegal.

The European Commission’s decision, following a 16-month investigation, is part of an ongoing crackdown against multinationals benefiting from sweetheart tax deals offered by EU countries.

The EU investigation focussed on Britain’s Controlled Foreign Company (CFC) rules, which are aimed at attracting companies to set up headquarters in Britain and discourage UK companies moving offshore.

The EU competition regulator said an exemption in the scheme for interest income earned by offshore subsidiaries between 2013 and 2018 – which had been criticised by tax campaigners as a major loophole – flouted EU laws.

“The UK gave certain multinationals a selective advantage by granting them an unjustified exemption from UK anti–tax avoidance rules. This is illegal under EU State aid rules,” European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager said.

The Commission said the exemption could be justified if interest payments received from loans did not result from British activities. However, if they were derived from UK activities, the exemption would not be justified.

The Commission did not say which multinationals are affected nor did it give an estimate for the amount Britain would recover, leaving it to UK tax authorities to reassess the tax liabilities.

BBA Aviation, Chemring, Daily Mail & General, Diageo, Euromoney, Inchcape, London Stock Exchange, Meggitt, Smith & Nephew and WPP are some of the companies which have mentioned the EU investigation in their accounts.

Vestager has already ordered Apple, Starbucks, Fiat Chrysler and several other multinationals to pay back taxes totalling billions of euros to various EU countries.”