BOOMERS AND BUST Government will have to abandon ‘con trick’ of pension triple-lock as OAP numbers soar says ex-Minister : Sun.

Ex-Pensions Minister Baroness Altmann demanded the government scrap ‘triple lock’ ensuring pensions rise ahead of spike in baby boomers.

TAXPAYERS will be hit with a huge bill to fund a near-10 per cent rise in the number of pensioners in the next decade, Ministers have been warned.

Baby-boomers being paid state pensions will rise by 9.1 per cent in the next Parliament compared to the five years to 2020, figures show.

Pensioner

Alamy
The number of pensioners receiving state pensions is set to rise by ten per cent in the next decade

The huge spike must mean the government abandons the ‘triple lock’ income guarantee for the elderly, according to former Pensions Minister Baroness Altmann.

The mechanism guarantees that pensions will go up the same as average earnings, inflation or a minimum of 2.5 per cent.

The Tory peer said: “This increase in state pension age has pushed a huge extra cost into the next Parliament.

Baroness Ros Altmann

PA:Press Association
Ex-Pensions Minister Baroness Ros Altmann called for the ‘triple lock’ ensuring pensions rise to be abandoned

“The triple lock is being applied when the number of new pensioners is lower than what it will be. It’s a bit of a trick.

“It has fooled a lot of pensioners who think, ‘Well, of course the government thinks about pensioners, they’ve done this triple-lock.’

“But it’s not all it’s cracked up to be. It’s a con trick. I would advise not having the triple lock beyond 2020. We need much fairer increases across the board.”

Pensioners

Alamy
Taxpayers will likely be left with a huge bill if the number of baby boomers spikes

The 9.1 per cent rise in pensioners claiming state pensions was detailed in the Office of Budget Responsibility report this week.

The government has pledged it won’t abandon the ‘triple lock’ before the next election.

Link : The Sun.

Petrol station staff are being forced to pay for fuel stolen by motorists as bilking in Britain reaches record levels : Daily Mail.

  • Staff who are negligent have had the cost of stolen fuel deducted from wages
  • Comes as thefts, usually £50-£60, reach record levels of £31.4million a year 
  • Owners defend practice, only used in a ‘handful’ of cases after other warnings
  • Unions said owners should invest in cameras, not pass responsibility to staff 

Petrol station staff are being forced to pay for fuel thefts as the number of people driving away from the pumps without paying reaches record levels.

Employees have had the cost of the lost fuel docked from their wages in a practice branded ‘illegal and immoral’ by union bosses.

News of the sanction comes as petrol theft continues to rise, jumping by more than a third in the last five years, according to the latest Home Office figures.

Petrol station staff are being forced to pay for fuel thefts as the number of people driving away from the pumps without paying reaches record levels. Stock image
Petrol station staff are being forced to pay for fuel thefts as the number of people driving away from the pumps without paying reaches record levels. Stock image

Figures show that the crime, known as bilking, is costing garages £31.4million a year, up from £24.6million in 2012, and the average theft is for £50-£60 of fuel.

A single theft can be a lot to lose from the wage packet of some of Britain’s lowest paid workers, earning little more than the minimum wage in many cases.

One worker told the Sunday People: ‘It happens quite a bit. But there’s not much we can do about it.’

Garage owners, who have defended the policy, say that it only happens in a ‘handful of cases’, when staff have been negligent over thefts.

In most cases, employees must physically look at the car and press a button to authorise the transaction before the pump starts working.

The Petrol Retailers Association, representing independent forecourts, argues that staff should record the number plates of cars that drive away.

It highlighted that staff are required to sign a form saying that they understand deductions are possible so are aware of the risks.

However, it says that they are only used in ‘a handful’ of cases because there are other disciplinary measures available before it gets to that point.

But GMB union boss Paul Maloney said that forecourts who have not invested in security cameras should not be allowed to simply pass the buck.

‘It’s the responsibility of the forecourt owner to install security such as number plate recognition. They shouldn’t pass on their responsibilities to their lowest-paid members of staff,’ he told The People.

The big issue: a fair pay structure for all is not beyond our control : Guardian.

A public debate on a cap to high wages is both possible and desirable.

Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier this month after calling for a maximum wage cap.
Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn earlier this month after calling for a maximum wage cap. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

Will Hutton is too quick to dismiss the idea of a ratio to cap high pay (“A pay cap is not only unworkable, it also detracts from the goal of a fairer society”, Comment). He assumes a particular definition of fairness yet he himself in the past has acknowledged that it is an “elastic” concept.

True, it can, as he argues, reflect perceptions of desert. But fairness can also be judged in relative terms and research suggests that both approaches are deployed in judging what constitutes fair pay at the top. Indeed, a number of polls indicate strong public support for a wage cap based on a ratio. Hutton rejects a ratio on the grounds that it would be “arbitrary”. Yet it would be quite possible to base it (or a range of caps for different sectors) on a process of public deliberation.

This would also have the advantage of encouraging public debate about what a fair pay structure would look like, thereby furthering, not, as he argues, detracting from, our shared goal of a fairer society.
Ruth Lister
Labour, House of Lords
London SW1

Will Hutton makes the moral case against gross inequalities of income, but misses an important economic argument. It goes like this: give a 10% pay rise to workers on the minimum wage and the chances are they will pay tax on it then spend the remainder in the local/national economy.

Give the same rise to the mega-rich and the chances are they will seek to avoid whatever tax they can, then spend the rest abroad, “invest” it in UK property – driving up house prices – or stash it into yet another offshore and dodgy tax-avoiding “trust”.
Dr Tony Rea
Ivybridge
Devon

Will Hutton might also have mentioned the tendency of gross inequality of wealth (salaries and assets) to drive boom and bust.

Although some inequality is inevitable, even desirable, researchers such as Thomas Piketty have shown that after a certain level the very wealthy tend to start hoarding or speculating, thus raising the cost of assets for the rest of us, especially in property, whether it be the cost of a place to live or to do business, and raising the volatility levels of the exchanges.

It is, after all, usually Britain and America, two of the most unequal countries in the developed world, that seem to set off these syndromes.

It’s time that the social democratic parties and pundits started making these points often and loudly instead of constantly being wrongfooted by cries of “politics of envy”.
David Redshaw
Gravesend
Kent

Exposing company executives to the rigours of open competition in the much-admired free market, rather than the current cosy club arrangements of pay consultants and remuneration committees all benefiting from absurd pay settlements, should do much to restrain high pay by increasing the supply of capable candidates.

After all, it seems to work at the corporate basement level, where the supply of labour, kept high by unemployment and squeezed benefits, acts to drive down pay and conditions.

What is sauce for the goose should surely be sauce for the gander. Or are the talents of corporate managers so rare as to make comparison redundant?
Roy Boffy
Sutton Coldfield

Link : The Guardian.

Shock as that’s the price scammers sell your personal data for to thieves : Express.

AN undercover investigation has revealed that potential nuisance callers and would-be scammers may be able to buy your sensitive personal and financial information for as little as 4p a record, according to a new report today.

Coins and a man on the phone

Nuisance callers may be able to buy your sensitive personal and financial information for 4p.

Consumer watchdog Which? Money investigated 14 data-selling companies by posing as a dodgy firm with the intention to contact people about early pension releases – a common pension scam. Researchers were able to order forms or invoices from 10 firms contacted, but stopped short of actually buying the data on offer.

Undercover researchers uncovered numerous examples of irresponsible behaviour and were able to discuss buying personal information for more than half a million people aged 50 and over, including salary, pensions, homes and jobs.

Some of the examples included:

• An invoice issued by one company for nearly 500,000 pieces of personal information at just 4p each with a household income of £40,000+ including phone number and address.

• Another firm issued an invoice for 2,200 names and numbers of people with a household income of £35,000+ at 66p per item.

• One company sent a sample telephone list on which 13 out of 18 people were registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) – the central opt-out register where people can record their preference not to receive unsolicited marketing calls.

• Another company issued an invoice containing bank details for 5,000 records at 24p per item with assurances that the data would be sent as soon as payment was made.

Which? money

Consumer watchdog Which? Money investigated 14 data-selling companies

Millions are already pestered by nuisance callers and targeted by scammers

Harry Rose

By doing some basic research the list brokers could have discovered that the fake business set up by Which? was not listed at Companies House; that it wasn’t FCA regulated – despite the claim it offered investment advice; and that it was not registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) – a must for anyone trading in personal data.

Four firms demonstrated what Which? believes to be best practice by refusing to deal with the fake pensions company from the outset. The other 10 firms still failed to carry out due diligence up to the point where orders were being placed.

Personal information can end up in the hands of list brokers if people have entered an online competition or answered a lifestyle survey. One salesman, when pressed for the source of a list, assured investigators that it was opted-in and compliant.

Read More : Daily Express.

Grandparents miss out on tax credits that could boost state pension : Guardian.

Little-known scheme could put thousands of pounds back into pensions of grandparents who take time off work to look after grandchildren under 12.

 

As many as 100,000 grandparents are missing out on national insurance credits that could boost their state pension by thousands of pounds over the course of their retirement, a former minister has claimed.

The former Liberal Democrat MP Steve Webb, now director of policy at mutual insurer Royal London, said a freedom of information request to HM Revenue & Customs had laid bare the “massive non-take-up” of a scheme designed to help grandparents who make sacrifices to help their children get back to work after the birth of a child.

The government launched the scheme – known officially as specified adult childcare credits, and unofficially as the grandparents’ credit – in 2011. It means that if a mother goes back to work after the birth of a child, she can sign a form that allows a grandparent or other family member to receive NI credits for looking after the child, provided the child is under the age of 12.

If a working-age grandparent misses out on one year of state pension rights because they are spending time with a grandchild instead of doing paid work, this would cost them 1/35th of the full rate of state pension, which is £231 per year. Over the course of a 20-year retirement this would add up to a loss of more than £4,500.

But the figures from HMRC, Webb said, showed that this system “is so little known” that just 1,298 grandparents and other family members across the country benefited in the year to September 2016. As such, Royal London is calling on the government to improve the publicity about these rights, so that new mothers and grandparents are aware of the scheme.

Based on an analysis of official data, the insurer estimated that around 1.27 million working mothers with one or more children under 12 were relying on a grandparent to provide childcare. Of these mothers, around 230,000 were in their 20s, so in these cases the grandparents were likely to be below state pension age. Some of these grandparents would still be working and not need the credit, but even if only half could benefit, that would still mean there were more than 100,000 potential beneficiaries, Webb said.

“Many families rely heavily on the support provided by grandparents to enable them to combine paid work and family life,” he added. “The fact that there is a scheme to make sure that grandparents do not lose out by protecting their state pension rights, is a good thing. But the scheme is not much use if hardly anyone takes it up. The government needs to act quickly to alert mothers to the fact that they can sign over the NI credits that they do not need.”

The charity Grandparents Plus said grandparents were a lifeline to families squeezed by falling incomes and rising childcare costs, adding: “When they give up their own jobs to help out, they shouldn’t damage their future state pension in the process.”

Link : The Guardian.

Funds to help people back to work going unspent : Morning Star.

MILLIONS of pounds set aside by the government each year to help people return to work is going unspent, Labour warned yesterday.

A Parliamentary question submitted by work and pensions select committee chairman Frank Field revealed that the “flexible support fund” underspent by £8.4 million last year — about 12 per cent of the £69.5m fund.

And the underspend for 2014-15 was even worse; at £64m it was nearly half that year’s overall budget.

The fund allows jobcentre staff to make payments to benefit claimants to help reduce barriers to work, helping claimants with the cost of things such as training and travel.

Labour MP Mr Field, who also chairs the all-party parliamentary group on hunger, cited evidence from foodbanks across the country where claimants had turned to them for assistance before receiving their first month’s wages.

He said that the transition from benefits into work brings with it a “barrage of extra costs” that must be met before employees receive their first month’s wages.

Mr Field said: “These additional costs can restrict new workers’ ability to afford food and other essential outgoings, even though they have gone with their best instincts by getting a job.”

Foodbanks in Chichester and Norwich both raised the transition to work as a particular problem, Mr Field said.

A National Audit Office report last year found the Department for Work & Pensions had underspent on the fund each year since it was introduced.

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Link : Morning Star.

Government secretly tripled payments to failing tax credits firm Concentrix, damning report reveals : Daily Mirror.

HM Revenue and Customs agreed to treble the taxpayer-funded commission to bungling Concentrix, the National Audit Office found.

Commons statement on the Brexit Vote

The payments happened on the watch of ex-Chancellor George Osborne and ex-PM David Cameron.

Whitehall tax chiefs paid £32.5million of public money to a failing tax credits firm which wrongly stripped thousands of families of vital benefits, a shock report reveals today.

HM Revenue and Customs bosses agreed secretly to treble the commission paid to bungling contractor Concentrix despite its disastrous performance, Government auditors found.

The cash payments included almost £7million for cases where families incorrectly had their payments stopped and had to overturn the decision on appeal, the National Audit Office said.

“This investigation has exposed a catalogue of corporate failure and Tory Government chaos,” said Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary Debbie Abrahams.

The report says almost a third of the families who lost their tax credits after a ruling from Concentrix had their decisions overturned on appeal.

Debbie Abrahams said the probe “exposed a catalogue of corporate failure”

It sets out in excruciating detail how Concentrix’s call centre collapsed under the weight of complaints, with 62,000 calls from frantic families going unanswered in August 2016 alone.

At one stage the firm was answering fewer than 5% of all calls within five minutes, against a target of 90%.

After months of inaction HMRC finally stepped in and cancelled the contract late last year, bringing the service back in-house.

HMRC has since paid out almost £87,000 in compensation to the worst-affected families.

“Behind the NAO’s worrying findings there were thousands of mums and dads worried sick because their tax credits were stopped – all too often in error – and who couldn’t get through to anyone to sort the problem,” said Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group.

Dalia Ben-Galim, director of policy at anti-poverty group Gingerbread, added: “The price of the failure of this contract has been paid by tens of thousands of single parents across the country.

“Many had money wrongly taken from their weekly budgets, faced months of delays in dealing with their claims, with phone calls and letters left unanswered.

“This left parents in limbo, living hand-to-mouth often without enough money to feed their children.”

HMRC signed the three-year deal with Concentrix in May 2014 to weed out cases of fraud and error in the tax credit system.

But over the next 18 months the bungling firm missed more than half its performance targets, with people wrongly losing their payments and then being unable to get through on the phone to complain.

Yet HMRC’s response in October 2015 was to quietly treble the commission paid to Concentrix for each case where it stopped a family’s payments – from 3.9% to an eye-watering 11%.

HMRC chiefs then sat back and watched as the privatised service went into total meltdown over the following year.

HM Revenue and Customs offices
The regime was overseen by HM Revenue and Customs (Photo: Getty)

An enormous backlog of cases built up ahead of a crucial date at the end of July 2016 when families’ tax credits had to be renewed.

As a result many wrongly lost their payments. The firm experienced a huge surge of calls to its call centre – which was unable to cope.

Computer systems collapsed and tens of thousands of people could not get through to complain.

Those that did found it took on average six to eight weeks before their payments were restarted.

Concentrix claimed it has racked up £20million in losses on the contract, despite being paid £32.5million by HMRC over three years.

The entire fiasco saved HMRC less than £200million, against a target figure of £1billion.

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said: “The Concentrix contract was an utter disaster from start to finish.

Tim Farron said the contract was an “utter disaster from start to finish”

“I don’t know any business that would get their commission trebled while seeing the savings they were supposed to make slashed by 60%. It’s potty.”

Eventually HMRC stepped in late last year and flooded the service with more than 600 of its own staff to answer calls and clear the backlog, costing taxpayers a further £30million.

The contract with Concentrix was cancelled and the service taken back in-house.

Last night an HMRC spokesman apologised to the families affected and made clear all attempts to privatise the service have now been abandoned.

“HMRC terminated the contract with Concentrix when it became clear that it was not delivering the quality of service we expect,” he said.

“We will not be entering into external contracts for this in future. We apologise to all those who did not receive the standard of service that they should have.”

Concentrix bosses will be hauled before MPs on the Commons public accounts committee later this month to be grilled on what went wrong.

Last night a Concentrix spokesman said: “We welcomed the opportunity to engage with the National Audit Office in its inquiry.

“This was a hugely complex contract and programme, and as the report highlights, a number of issues emerged at the outset which laid the foundations for the challenges experienced throughout, particularly last year.

“We look forward to discussing the report with the Public Accounts Committee in order to ensure all lessons can be learned.”

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