Courts shut down five companies that carried out investment scams promising high-value truffles for commercial sales.
After a four day trial, five connected companies were wound up by the High Court in London on 12 October 2018, including: Viceroy Jones New Tech Ltd, Viceroy Jones Overseas PCC Limited, Westcountrytruffles Limited, Truffle Sales Ltd and Credit Free Limited.
The Insolvency Service has said that more than 100 investors were cheated out of their savings, totaling close to £9 million and potentially rising.
The court heard that Viceroy Jones New Tech used a network of unregulated financial advisory firms and targeted people that had access to their pension savings.
The advisors had close working relationships with George Frost, the common director of Viceroy Jones New Tech, Viceroy Jones Overseas PCC and Westcountrytruffles, and convinced the victims to transfer their savings into Small Self Administered Schemes* operated by Viceroy Jones New Tech and Viceroy Jones Overseas PCC based in the Seychelles.
Investors were told their savings were funding oak and hazel tree saplings inoculated with truffle spores planted and managed for 15 years at dedicated plantations worldwide. The truffles would then be cultivated on a commercial scale with investors and plantation companies benefiting from the sales.
However, investigators from the Insolvency Service found that no harvesting or cultivation has ever taken place to date at any of the plantations, including those in Spain and South Africa, despite the scheme first being sold to the public in 2012.
The companies devised convoluted contractual structures and manipulated costs to secure high-value investments.
For example, investors paid anywhere between £750 and £995 per sapling with the promise they would see significant returns within five years after the truffles had been cultivated. But similar inoculated saplings were available to the public at the same time, costing only £7.95 to £9.95 per sapling.
Investors were also miss-sold the investment opportunities through unsubstantiated claims, such as having the option to trade out at any time of their contract and one investor was told they could expect a 200% return over a ten year period.
In reality, investors had little or no remedy in relation to their investments and had no contractual relationship with the plantation companies responsible for maintaining the truffle trees for the contracted 15 years.
£9 million worth of investments remains unexplained, with investors’ funds originally paid into third party offshore bank accounts. Investigators were told the majority of funds were paid as commissions, although no supporting records have been provided to substantiate this.
Investigators have also been able to show that significant commissions were paid to the unregulated advisors, Truffle Sales Ltd, as well as to George Frost and his brother Brian, who was a former director of Westcountrytruffles.
The last company shut down by the courts, Credit Free Limited, had not actively participated in the truffle scam. But it received funds raised in the scheme, along with commissions received from a separate carbon credits scheme also operated by George Frost and Viceroy Jones Limited.
Using these funds, Credit Free Limited paid more than £1.8 million over a five-year period to George Frost and to former director, Jeffrey Hawes.
Cheryl Lambert, Chief Investigator for the Insolvency Service, said:
The companies and those behind them have showed no remorse in their calculated plan to scam investors of their pension pots. Although the Insolvency Service investigation was hampered by a lack of cooperation, the investigation pieced together the numerous layers in which the scam was wrapped.
We take the matter of unregulated pension liberation investment schemes very seriously and will take action to stop any such schemes who have acted unscrupulously.
All enquiries concerning the affairs of the companies should be made to: The Official Receiver, Public Interest Unit, 4 Abbey Orchard Street, London, SW1P 2HT. Telephone: 0207 637 1110, Email: email@example.com.
Public file information for the five companies is as follows:
|Name and registration number||Date of incorporation||Registered Office||Share holding||current directorships|
|Viceroy Jones New Tech Ltd 08151134||20 July 2012||20 – 22 Wenlock Road, London, N1 7GU (Made Simple Group - Accommodation office service provider address)||£1 issued share – George Ronald Frost||George Ronald Frost.|
|Viceroy Jones Overseas PCC Limited C8413848||07 May 2014||c/o A.C.T. – Offshore Limited, Oliaji Trade Centre, Victoria, Mahe, Seychelles||Authorised share capital of $100,000, divided into 100 £1,000 shares, 50 each held by George Frost and Pauline Frost||George Frost and Pauline Frost|
|Credit Free Limited 06727364||20 October 2008||Matrix House, 12 – 16 Lionel Road, Canvey Island, Essex, SS8 9DE (a Maynard Heady office address)||100 allotted shares of £1 per share, held by Mr French. 25 shares held by George Frost, Pauline Frost, Jeffrey Hawes and Jean Hawes transferred on 12.08.16.||Neill Vincent French.|
|Truffle Sales Ltd 08166206||02 August 2012||Rimmer House, Bankhead Lane, Preston, Lancs, PR5 6YR||2 allotted £1 ordinary shares issued, I of each to Mr Liptrot and Ms Cointre||Catherine Cointre and Andrew Liptrot|
|Westcountrytruffles Ltd 08802624||04 December 2013||Nexus House, 139 High Street, Portishead, BS20 6PY||1,000 allotted £1 ordinary shares, 500 each held by Brian Frost and Alison Frost||George Ronald Frost.|
The petitions to wind up the companies were presented in the High Court in London on 7 April 2017, under the provisions of section 124A of the Insolvency Act 1986 following confidential enquiries by Company Investigations under section 447 of the Companies Act 1985, as amended.
Company Investigations, part of the Insolvency Service, uses powers under the Companies Act 1985 to conduct confidential fact-finding investigations into the activities of live limited companies in the UK on behalf of the Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS).
Further information about live company investigations is available here.
British businesses are set to play a major role in the delivery of the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar.
British companies will play a major role in ensuring a successful 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar and are expected to be involved in many aspects of the tournament from building new stadiums to cutting the grass and providing pitch-side security guards.
The Department for International Trade has already helped British companies to secure £940m in Qatar World Cup-related exports and aims for at least a further £500m before the competition kicks-off in 2022.
The UK’s Trade Policy Minister George Hollingbery is in Qatar today (2 December) for the second meeting of the Joint Ministerial Economic Commercial and Technical Committee (JETCO).
Talks will explore partnership opportunities for British business at the 2022 World Cup as well as celebrating the continued rise of trade between the two countries, which totalled £3.39bn in 2017, an increase of 70% over the last five years.
With our football teams enjoying success this summer and fantastic support coming from all four nations, it’s great to see British business winning contracts and making these fantastic events the spectacle they are.
Our world class construction companies have some of the best safety records in the world and they will play an important role in delivering a safe and successful World Cup.
If our nations have as much success in Qatar 2022 as UK businesses are having supporting it, we are in for another great tournament.
In July, the Emir of Qatar visited London to meet with Prime Minister Theresa May. They discussed how the UK could continue to support Qatar to deliver a safe and successful World Cup in 2022, and the Prime Minister highlighted the expertise of British companies in delivering major sporting events.
So far, the UK has stepped up, capitalising on its expertise in project management, design, architecture and supply chains to secure world cup contracts.
UK business has a long track record of delivering the world’s biggest sporting events. The Department for International Trade helped UK companies win export business worth around £150m supporting Brazil to deliver the 2014 FIFA World Cup and 2016 Olympic Summer Games. Full story
Defra joins forces with Keep Britain Tidy to launch the ‘Keep it, Bin it’ campaign.
Shocking images are at the centre of a new campaign unveiled today (30 November) to crack down on littering in England.
Launched by Environment Secretary Michael Gove in partnership with environmental charity Keep Britain Tidy, and supported by some of the biggest names in retail, travel and entertainment, the campaign features poignant images of wildlife eating and getting tangled in litter, contrasted against typical excuses for people give for dropping litter. The emotive imagery demonstrates the impact that littering can have on the environment, with the RSPCA responding to 1,500 calls about litter-related incidents affecting animals every year.
This bold approach from Defra and anti-litter charity Keep Britain Tidy has already earned the backing of some of our biggest businesses with Mars Wrigley Confectionery, Greggs, McDonald’s, PepsiCo UK and Network Rail confirmed as the first tranche of campaign partners.
Today the campaign will be on display in train stations nationwide, including commuter hubs such as London Euston, Manchester Piccadilly and Birmingham New Street, as well as across partners’ social media channels and on Clear Channel’s Socialite screens. After launch, the campaign will feature at till-points in Gregg’s stores and at Cineworld cinemas through the partnership with PepsiCo UK.
As well as the environmental cost, littering also brings with it a huge financial cost. Keeping the country’s streets clean cost local government almost £700 million last year in England, much of this spent cleaning up avoidable litter. Millions of pieces of litter are dropped every day in England.
The new campaign is urging people to put their litter in a bin, or keep hold of it and put it in a bin when they see one. Empty packets and other litter should always be recycled wherever possible.
Environment Secretary Michael Gove said:
The ‘Keep it, Bin it’ campaign is a bold statement of our intent to tackle the scourge of littering. Littering is antisocial and unacceptable. It plagues our environment and poisons our wildlife.
We know we won’t achieve this ambition by working alone. That’s why I’m thrilled to see some of our biggest companies including Mars Wrigley Confectionery, Greggs, and McDonalds and the tireless campaigners at Keep Britain Tidy, joining forces with us to help improve our precious environment.
Allison Ogden-Newton, CEO of Keep Britain Tidy, said:
We are delighted to be partnering with Defra to deliver the first government backed national anti-litter campaign in a generation. As the largest consumers of food and drink on the go in Europe the need for this campaign has never been greater. We are urgently asking everyone to eliminate litter by keeping their packaging with them when there isn’t a bin and bin it when there is one.
We know the impact that litter has on our environment, on wildlife and, ultimately, our oceans where 80% of the plastics found there come directly from the land.
This campaign will raise awareness with those people who still think it is acceptable to leave their rubbish anywhere other than in a bin.
The message is simple – Keep it. Bin it.
Ana Baptista, Corporate Affairs Director, Mars Wrigley Confectionery UK said:
Mars Wrigley Confectionery is hugely proud to support the national anti-litter campaign, as it builds on our long-standing commitment to tackling this important issue.
We feel strongly that industry has a critical role to play in delivering long-term behaviour change by encouraging people to bin their litter responsibly and we look forward to working with the team at Defra and Keep Britain Tidy to deliver on this goal.
Roger Whiteside, Chief Executive at Greggs, said:
We love that our customers care about the environment, and so do we - that’s why we’re committed to doing all we can to protect it and tackle the growing issue of litter.
Social responsibility forms the bedrock of our business and to this end, we have rigorous targets in place, ensuring we carefully manage any environmental impact from our operations. We are proud of our existing partnerships with a number of environmental charities including Keep Britain Tidy and look forward to working with Defra and other campaign partners to really bolster all of our efforts in this area and make a positive impact together.
Paul Pomroy, Chief Executive of McDonald’s UK said:
As a business we have made a number of moves to help reduce our impact on the environment. These include introducing recycling units in our dining areas, reducing the amount of packaging we use and moving our plastic straws behind the counter, whilst we move to paper straws, which has reduced the number used by almost 10%. Our restaurant teams have also, for over 30 years, carried out daily litter patrols in their local area, collecting all the litter they find.
We are proud to now be supporting the ‘Keep It, Bin It’ campaign. As a father of two boys, I am passionate about the responsibility we have to ensure our communities are clean and our natural environment remains healthy for future generations.
Despite the huge cost of cleaning up litter, a worrying 1 in 5 people admit to dropping litter. A recent study also showed 1 in 4 people admit to ‘careful littering’, such as leaving drinks cans or coffee cups on window ledges.
The government wants to make littering culturally unacceptable within a generation, with the initial focus on 16 to 24 year olds. Evidence suggeststhis age group is more likely to drop litter.
The campaign follows the first ever Litter Strategy for England, published last year, which sets out how government will work to clean up the country, change attitudes towards littering, and strengthen enforcement powers.
Earlier this year we doubled the maximum on-the-spot penalty for littering, gave councils new powers to tackle littering from vehicles, and have made £450,000 funding available through the Litter Innovation Fund to pilot new ways to tackle littering.
We are keen to hear from commercial and charitable organisations that are interested in joining our campaign. Simply email our partnerships team at Litter@defra.gov.uk to express an interest.
Today’s interim report presents the issues the Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) has identified since launching a Market Study into the funerals sector 6 months ago.
Its initial work indicates problems with the market that have led to above inflation price rises for well over a decade – both for funeral director services and crematoria services. The scale of these price rises does not currently appear to be justified by cost increases or quality improvements.
Given the nature and significance of the issues the CMA has identified, it believes the full powers of a Market Investigation – carried out by an independent group of CMA panel members – are required. Issues include that:
Today, people generally spend between £3,000 and £5,000 organising a funeral, and the price of the essential elements has increased by more than two-thirds in the last 10 years, almost 3 times the rate of inflation. Organising a funeral would now cost those on the lowest incomes nearly 40% of their annual outgoings, more than they spend on food, clothing and energy combined.
Customers could save over £1,000 by looking at a range of choices in their local area. However, people organising a funeral are usually distressed and often not in a position to do this – making it easier for some funeral directors to charge higher prices. Prices are also often not available online, making it difficult to compare options.
While some smaller funeral directors have sought to keep their prices low, other providers – the larger chains in particular – have implemented policies of consistently high year-on-year price increases. A number of these have now introduced lower cost funeral options, but this doesn’t go far enough to make up for years of above inflation price hikes. The CMA’s evidence also indicates most people who organise a funeral remain extremely vulnerable to exploitation and future rises in charges.
Cremations account for 77% of funerals, yet there are limited choices for most people in their local area and fees charged by crematoria have increased by 84% on average in the past 10 years, more than 3 times the rate of inflation.
Andrea Coscelli, chief executive of the CMA, said:
People mourning the loss of a loved one are extremely vulnerable and at risk of being exploited. We need to make sure that they are protected at such an emotional time, and we’re very concerned about the substantial increases in funeral prices over the past decade.
We now feel that the full powers of a market investigation are required to address the issues we have found. We also want to hear from people who have experienced poor practices in the sector, so that we can take any action needed to fix these problems.
The CMA will now be consulting on the potential market investigation reference and welcomes any views on the issues identified in its report by 4 January 2019.
It would also like to hear from people involved in the industry and others, who may have observed instances of poor quality standards in the back-of-house facilities of funeral directors. Details on how to respond are available on the funerals market study page.
The Competition and Markets Authority’s (CMA) Phase 2 investigation has provisionally found that Experian’s takeover of ClearScore is likely to result in less intense competition, potentially harming the continued development of digital products which help people understand their personal finances.
The CMA referred the proposed merger between credit score checking firms Experian and ClearScore for an in-depth Phase 2 investigation in July 2018, following initial concerns that the deal could have a negative impact on the services provided to customers.
Experian and ClearScore are the 2 largest credit checking firms in the UK. Experian offers both free and paid-for credit checking services, while ClearScore, which entered the market in 2015, quickly became market leader in free credit checking tools for customers. Both companies also provide people using these services with comparisons of third party lenders such as credit card providers and banks.
Currently, competition between the 2 firms is helping to drive quality and innovation in both free and paid-for credit checking services as they develop their products to vie for customers. By taking one of the firms out of the market, the CMA’s provisional finding is that the merger would substantially reduce the pressure to continue to develop innovative offers and to make other improvements in services.
Roland Green, the Inquiry Chair, said:
Our investigation has shown that this is a fast-paced and evolving market, and that both Experian and ClearScore are an important part of that.
The provisional findings in our investigation show that Experian’s proposed takeover of ClearScore is likely to weaken competition in the sector and have a negative effect on the services offered to customers.
The CMA is now asking for views on these provisional findings by 19 December 2018 and will assess all the evidence before making a final decision. The statutory deadline for the CMA’s final report is 11 March 2019.
Further details are available on the Experian / Clearscore case page.
Experian provides a variety of services to businesses and individuals. It is a credit reference bureau, supplying credit providers (e.g. banks) with information which helps them to assess the risk of lending. It also provides a free credit scores that generate leads for financial products (e.g. credit cards and personal loans) from which it receives commission from financial product providers. It also provides provides a detailed credit report and features such as a dedicated call centre, fraud alerts, support for victims of identity fraud and dark web monitoring via its ‘CreditExpert’ service. Finally, Experian provides ‘pre-qualification services’ to comparison websites which allows users of those sites to see whether they are eligible for a particular credit product in real time.
ClearScore offers people free credit scores and reports and matches them with personal financial products (e.g. credit cards and personal loans) via its website and mobile app. ClearScore earns commission from the providers of the financial products.
The CMA is the UK’s primary competition and consumer authority. It is an independent non-ministerial government department with responsibility for carrying out investigations into mergers, markets and the regulated industries and enforcing competition and consumer law.
The CMA’s functions in phase 2 merger investigations are performed by inquiry groups chosen from the CMA’s panel members. The appointed inquiry group are the decision-makers on phase 2 investigations.
The CMA’s panel members come from a variety of backgrounds, including economics, law, accountancy and/or business; the membership of an inquiry group usually reflects a mix of expertise and experience.
People may no longer need to take an entire day off work to attend court and those with caring responsibilities could find it easier to fit in hearings at the beginning or end of a day.
The pilot has been announced by the government today (16 November 2018) following feedback from legal professionals across the country. As a result of this feedback, flexible operating hours are not being piloted in criminal courts.
Two courts in Manchester and Brentford will run the pilots for six months, testing whether civil and family buildings can be used more effectively; the benefits of making it possible for people to attend court outside of the traditional 10am – 4pm sitting day; and what more flexibility means for staff and legal professionals.
Justice Minister, Lucy Frazer said:
We want to make our courts and tribunals more accessible to the public. This pilot assesses whether and how we can give people greater flexibility in their busy lives.
We listened carefully to the views of legal professionals and others before going ahead, and as a result flexible operating hours are not being piloted in criminal courts. We will now test different options relating to operating hours in two civil and family courts and an independent evaluation will be carried out before any decisions are made about further roll-out.
The Government is investing more than £1bn to reform courts and tribunals with the aim of making it as simple and straightforward as possible for people who come into contact with the justice system.
In October 2017, a Pilots Prospectus was published which sought feedback on proposals for early and late court sittings before the pilots began.
Case types proposed for inclusion in the pilots announced today were chosen following input from the legal sector and local judiciary, and views of court users and professionals will be taken in to account in the evaluation. A full evaluation will be conducted by an independent organisation.
The announcement follows the latest meeting of the Modern Slavery Taskforce, created by Prime Minister Theresa May, which discussed how to better identify and tackle forced labour in business supply chains.
The UK’s multi-billion fashion industry employs tens of thousands of people, which can make its companies vulnerable to unscrupulous providers and criminals who exploit workers for their labour.
The new agreement will commit its signatories, John Lewis, M&S, New Look, NEXT, River Island and Shop Direct, to work together with the Gangmasters and Labour Abuse Authority (GLAA), and others, to root out criminality and shine a light on hidden victims.
These efforts to uncover hidden slavery in businesses come as activity to respond to modern slavery offences has reached an all-time high, with police forces across the UK running more than 920 live investigations in September, involving over 2,000 victims.
The Prime Minister said:
Modern slavery is an abhorrent crime that denies its victims of liberty, and it is disturbing to think that some of the products we buy could have been produced by someone exploited into forced labour.
As global leaders in the fight against modern slavery, I am clear that this will not be tolerated in the UK – and our consumers won’t stand for it either.
I welcome the action being taken by businesses which are leading the way in being open and transparent about the modern slavery risks they face, and have pledged to raise awareness to prevent slavery, protect vulnerable workers and help bring more criminals to justice.
But with Modern Slavery police operations at an all-time high, clearly there is more to do to stamp out this vile crime and prevent criminal groups from operating in the shadows of supply chains to exploit people for commercial gain.
Businesses with a turnover of more than £36 million are already legally required to publish annual transparency statements, known as a Modern Slavery Statements, setting out what they are doing to stop modern slavery and forced labour practices occurring in their business and supply chains.
Last month, to coincide with Anti-Slavery Day, the Home Office wrote directly to the Chief Executives of 17,000 businesses to remind them of their responsibilities, or face being publicly named.
A business rates ‘loophole’ which could be costing English councils millions in lost Council Tax is to be reviewed by ministers with a consultation.
A business rates ‘loophole’ which could be costing English councils millions in lost Council Tax is to be reviewed by ministers with a consultation launched today (7 November 2018).
Currently, second-home owners pay Council Tax on their properties including when the property is available to rent infrequently during the year.
Properties are valued for business rates when owners declare their property is available to let as ‘holiday accommodation’ for 140 days or more in a year.
Any property registered for business rates, rather than Council Tax, is likely to qualify for small business rate relief. This provides 100% relief from business rates, so no tax is due on properties with a rateable value of £12,000 or less.
Around 47,000 holiday lets in England are liable for business rates, of which circa 96% have rateable values of £12,000 or less. Currently there is no requirement for evidence to be produced that a property has actually been commercially let.
Genuine businesses can claim the relief to which they are entitled. However, the government is aware of concerns that owners of second homes which do not fall into this category, could exploit the system by not paying Council Tax, whilst still using local services.
Local Government Minister Rishi Sunak MP said:
We’re aware of concerns that the current arrangements for valuing second homes for business rates and claiming relief do not provide strong enough protections against abuse.
We are seeking views on whether we should strengthen the checks already in place to ensure second-home owners have to pay Council Tax, while ensuring genuine holiday let businesses are able to demonstrate they are eligible for business rates relief.
The consultation will seek views on whether the current criteria should be strengthened to ensure second home owners are contributing to the local economy through the proper payment of council tax, or, for those genuinely renting out their property and supporting tourism, business rates.
View the consultation on this website - it will run until 16 January 2019.
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Pet owners encouraged to contact their vet on travel plans ahead of EU Exit.
Today (6 November) advice has been issued to pet owners about what they need to do to make sure they can travel to the EU with their pets when the UK leaves the EU.
Pet owners will still be able to travel to Europe with their pet after we leave the EU whatever the outcome of the negotiations. However, in the unlikely event of a no-deal they may need to take some additional steps. This includes a rabies vaccination followed by a blood test a minimum of 30 days afterwards.
If pet owners are planning to travel after 29 March 2019, the government recommends they contact their vet at least four months in advance of their intended travel date to check what they need to do.
Those wishing to travel to the EU on 30 March 2019, for example, should discuss requirements with their vet as soon as possible and before the end of November 2018 at the latest.
The requirements include making sure that pets are effectively vaccinated against rabies before they travel. This involves having an up-to-date rabies vaccination and a blood test to demonstrate sufficient levels of rabies antibody.
The blood test would need to be carried out a minimum of 30 days after any initial rabies vaccination and a minimum of three months before their travel date. Pet owners will need to talk to their vet about health requirements in good time.
Christine Middlemiss, UK Chief Veterinary Officer, said:
Today we are giving practical and straightforward advice for people who wish to travel to Europe with their pets after we leave the EU in the unlikely event of a no-deal situation.
I urge all pet owners who wish to travel immediately after 29 March 2019 to consult with their vet as soon as they can. This is about planning ahead to ensure their pet has the correct health protection documented and in place for all possible Exit scenarios.
In recent weeks we have been in contact with vets to highlight this issue. They are expecting pet owners to consult with them and plan ahead.
Pet owners can also stay up to date with the latest advice on pet travel on GOV.UK or by searching ‘pet travel’.
The UK’s Artificial Intelligence revolution gets new backing, as the Business Secretary announces five new centres of excellence for digital pathology and imaging, including radiology, using AI medical advances.
New centres announced today will bring together doctors, businesses and academics to develop products using these advances in digital technology to improve early diagnosis of disease, including cancer by detecting abnormalities.
The products developed at the new centres will offer more personalised treatment for patients while freeing up doctors to spend more time caring for patients. The investment in large-scale genomics and image analysis will drive new understanding of how complex diseases develop, in a proactive step to ensure people get the right treatment at the right time.
Business Secretary Greg Clark said:
AI has the potential to revolutionise healthcare and improve lives for the better. That’s why our modern Industrial Strategy puts pioneering technologies at the heart of our plans to build a Britain fit for the future.
The innovation at these new centres will help diagnose disease earlier to give people more options when it comes to their treatment, and make reporting more efficient, freeing up time for our much-admired NHS staff time to spend on direct patient care.
The centres will be funded through the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund, the government’s flagship investment programme that focusses on addressing the opportunities and challenges of the future, which is managed by UK Research and Innovation. The centres will be spearheaded by some of the UK’s leading medical companies including GE Healthcare, Siemens, Philips, Leica, Canon and Roche Diagnostics. The investment marks a significant step in delivering on a major commitment in the Life Sciences Sector Deal (Dec 2017), which built on Sir John Bell’s Life Sciences Industrial Strategy (Aug 2017).
UKRI Chief Executive Professor Sir Mark Walport said:
Early diagnosis of illness can greatly increase the chances of successful treatment and save lives.
The centres announced today bring together the teams that will develop artificial intelligence tools that can analyse medical images varying from x-rays to microscopic sections from tissue biopsies. Artificial intelligence has the potential to revolutionise the speed and accuracy of medical diagnosis.
The centres are:
Too many workers in Britain’s workplaces are still being injured or made ill by their work a new report shows.
Annual statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) show 1.4 million workers were suffering from work-related ill health and around 555,000 from non-fatal injuries in 2017/18.
The annual statistics, compiled by HSE from the Labour Force Survey (LFS) and other sources, cover work-related ill health, workplace injuries, working days lost, costs to Britain and enforcement action taken.
Despite Britain continuing to be one of the safest places to work, key figures for Great Britain show that in 2017/18 there were;
Workplace injury and new cases of ill health cost Britain £15.0 billion a year with 30.7 million working days lost.
There have been no significant changes in the industries in which workers are most likely to be injured by their work, with construction and agriculture among the higher risk sectors.
These figures confirm the scale of the challenge HSE faces in making Britain a healthier and safer place to work and shows that there are still areas to improve on to prevent death, injury and ill health in the workplace.
Martin Temple, HSE Chair, said of the findings: “These figures should serve as a reminder to us of the importance to manage risk and undertake good health and safety practice in the work place.
“Great Britain’s health and safety record is something we should all be proud of, but there is still much to be done to ensure that every worker goes home at the end of their working day safe and healthy.
“Collectively we must take responsibility to prevent these incidents that still affect too many lives every year, and continue to all play our part in Helping Great Britain Work Well.”
The full annual injury and ill-health statistics report can be found at: http://www.hse.gov.uk/statistics/
Homes England has today set out how it will improve housing affordability through a new five-year Strategic Plan – helping more people access better homes in
areas where they are needed most.
The plan, which runs up to 2022/23, outlines Homes England’s ambitious new mission and the steps the national housing agency will take, in partnership with all parts of the housing industry sector, to respond to the long-term housing challenges facing the country.
The new plan sets out far-reaching delivery objectives:
Communities Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said:
This government is committed to delivering 300,000 homes a year by the mid-2020s and help more people get on the housing ladder. Homes England is at the heart of these plans.
I welcome their comprehensive vision that sets out how through their powers and expertise they will maximise Government investment to deliver the homes communities need.
Sir Edward Lister, Homes England Chairman, said:
Ultimately, we need to disrupt the housing market. Homes England plans to be bold, creative and think big. We hope the whole of the housing sector – big and small, up and down the country – will join us for the next five years and beyond.
Nick Walkley, Homes England Chief Executive, said:
The new Homes England is all about making homes happen – and our new 5-year plan sets out our ambitious new approach. We are committing to boosting housing supply, productivity, innovation, quality, skills and modern methods of construction to help make a more diverse and resilient market. In return, we are calling for partners and the wider industry who share our ambition to challenge traditional norms and build better homes faster.
Homes England is already making significant progress. High-profile deals forged in recent months include: major land acquisitions in Sussex and Plymouth; a £1bn lending alliance with Barclays to support smaller builders; a new joint venture with Kier’s residential arm; and infrastructure-led developments at Ebbsfleet and Northstowe.
The five-year Strategic Plan follows the Budget announcement yesterday of seven more strategic partnerships with housing associations, which will deliver an additional 13,475 affordable homes by March 2022.
The new partnerships will secure a total of £653m in funding from the Affordable Homes Programme, delivered through Homes England, including homes for social rent in areas of high affordability pressures.
This is in addition to the first eight strategic partnership deals announced in early July, bringing the total number of additional affordable homes that will be delivered to 27,755. Full story
A Liverpool-based waste and recycling company has today been fined and its director has been jailed after the death of a 39-year-old
Gaskell’s (North West) Limited and Jonathan Gaskell were sentenced both for their part in the death in 2010 of Polish national Zbigniew Galka, and for continuing to operate the same baling machine in a dangerous manner for up to five years after Mr Galka’s death.Liverpool Crown Court heard how Zbigniew Galka died while working at Gaskells Waste Services in Foster Street, Bootle on 23 December 2010.
The company was operating a machine used to compress recyclable and waste materials into small bales which had a defeated interlock system enabling a worker to enter the machine while it was still in operation. Mr Galka had entered the baling chamber of the machine to clear a blockage of waste materials that had caused the machine to stop. The machine automatically activated, and Mr Galka suffered haemorrhaging, shock and severe traumatic injury to both legs, and died on his way to hospital.
Gaskell’s (North West) Limited of Foster Street, Liverpool pleaded guilty to breaching Section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. The company has been fined £700,000 and ordered to pay costs of £99,886.57. Jonathan Gaskell of Peckforton Hall Lane, Tarporley, Cheshire pleaded guilty to breaching Section 37 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. He was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Phil Redman said:
...... “Companies should be aware that HSE will not accept the defeating of safety systems in order to maintain production and will not hesitate to take action against those that fall below the required standards."
The Healthcare (International Arrangements) Bill has been introduced to give the government legal powers to fund and implement healthcare deals after Brexit.
The Bill seeks to safeguard healthcare for 190,000 expats and 50 million people who travel abroad every year, through agreements with the EU or member states.
The Bill, brought before Parliament by Health Minister Jackie Doyle-Price, will establish the legal basis to fund and implement reciprocal healthcare schemes and share necessary data after we leave the EU.
Reciprocal healthcare arrangements have benefits that include:
It will establish the basis for a new arrangement allowing the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) scheme to continue after 2020, subject to an agreement with the EU. EHIC grants UK nationals access to free healthcare abroad, and pays for 250,000 medical treatments each year.
For the 190,000 expat state pensioners who have chosen to live in the EU and those intending to retire to the EU, it will help by safeguarding reciprocal healthcare if there is no EU deal.
Lord James O’Shaughnessy said:
Whether on holiday, working or retiring abroad, British people want to know they can access the same high quality healthcare that they enjoy in the NHS.
This Bill will allow us to implement new healthcare arrangements with other countries – in the EU and elsewhere – so that UK citizens can travel with confidence.
The Intellectual Property Office and The Royal British Legion warn consumers ahead of Remembrance 2018.
The Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and The Royal British Legion (RBL) are urging members of the British public to be extra vigilant when buying poppy merchandise for Remembrance this year. Their donations are intended to support Armed Forces community men, women, veterans and their families. Instead they could end up benefitting fraudsters if their poppy merchandise turns out to be fake.
The RBL has registered its rights for the poppy goods to prevent such counterfeiting.
The IPO and The RBL have teamed up with the Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) to crack down on the rogue traders making money from the fake Remembrance goods. The warning applies to poppy merchandise - scarves, jewellery, poppy pins and larger poppy brooches. This does NOT apply to the traditional paper poppies.
The PIPCU team has been targeting suspected sellers by visiting addresses and speaking with people in connection with this crime. In Autumn 2017, Border Force officers at Tilbury intercepted a shipment of poppy merchandise intended for the UK worth in the region of £150,000.
Intellectual Property Minister Sam Gyimah said:
It is truly shocking that anyone would target and exploit one of the UK’s most cherished charities and take advantage of public support for our Armed Forces community
Together we can ensure donations go to the people they are intended for, by only supporting approved merchandise. Be vigilant when you are buying your poppies this year, and look out for the Royal British Legion logo to ensure the merchandise is approved and genuine.
Claire Rowcliffe, Director of Fundraising, from The Royal British Legion said:
It is a sad fact that there are people who actively defraud the public in order to take funds intended for the support of our Armed Forces community. We would urge everyone wishing to purchase a Remembrance poppy brooch, to do so through official channels. For example, you can buy from one of our trusted volunteers, from The Royal British Legion’s online Poppy Shop, or from one of our corporate partners.
Join with us, the IPO and PIPCU to help make sure your donation doesn’t line the pockets of criminals. We want to make sure that it goes to supporting those who have made such a unique contribution to our society.
The public are being asked to look out for counterfeit goods in the shape, or bearing the image of, the RBL’s familiar two-petal red poppy, or Poppy Scotland’s four-petal poppy in Scotland. The RBL have registered their rights for the poppy goods to prevent such counterfeiting.
To help consumers beat the fraudsters, here are the top tips to avoid buying fake poppy merchandise online:
Call Crimestoppers on 0800 555111 or report it online if you spot anyone selling what you believe to be fake poppy products.
The government has announced that it will not continue with the plans to abolish Class 2 National Insurance contributions (NICs) during this parliament. Why has it backtracked?
What did the government intend to do? Class 2 NICs were set to be abolished from April 2019 (originally April 2018) to simplify the tax system for the self-employed. Class 2 NICs are currently charged at a rate of £2.95 per week for those with profits from self-employment exceeding £6,205 per year. The proposal sought to make adjustments to the Class 4 NIC rules to minimise the impact on those with profits above the Class 2 threshold but below the current Class 4 threshold. However the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury (Robert Jenrick) has now released a Written Ministerial Statement confirming that the government will not be proceeding with this change.
Why have the plans been scrapped? Having explored the issue further, it was found that"a significant number of self-employed individuals on the lowest profits would have seen the voluntary payment they make to maintain access to the State Pension rise substantially." This is because those with low profits paying Class 2 NICs voluntarily would need to pay Voluntary Class 3 NICs (£14.65 per week) in order to maintain their entitlement to the State Pension. The government also found that options identified to address these concerns would only increase the complexity of the tax system, thereby defeating the object of the policy.
The Statement stresses that the government remains committed to simplifying the tax system for the self-employed, and will keep this issue under review in the context of the wider tax system and the sustainability of the public finances.
Find out how to claim tax relief on money you've spent on things like work uniform and clothing, tools, business travel, professional fees and subscriptions.
There are different ways to claim tax relief depending on your circumstances. You need to check you’re claiming the right way before using the forms on this page. Get help choosing the right way to claim or claim by phone if you’ve made a claim for tax relief before.
Claim using the online service.
When you use this service, you’ll:
Include all expenses for the tax year you want to claim for. The amount shown on the service summary page is your total expenses for the year. We’ll use this to work out any relief due to you.
Gather all your information together before you start your claim.
If you’re using the service to add a new expense make sure you include anything you’ve claimed before.
If you claim an estimated amount, we’ll review it at the end of the tax year and we’ll change your tax code.
Only use this form if you’re claiming either:
If you’re using the print and post form to add a new expense make sure you include anything you’ve claimed before.
You’ll need to fill in the print and post form on-screen and send it to HM Revenue and Customs. The address is on the form.
This form is also available in Welsh.
You must fill in the print and post form fully before you can print it. You can’t save a partly completed form, so you should gather all your information together before you start to fill it in.
If you’re using an older browser, for example, Internet Explorer 8, you’ll have to update it or use a different browser. Find out more about browsers.
You can claim by phone if you’ve already claimed expenses in a previous year and your total expenses are less than either:
You’ll need to have records and receipts. If your employer pays you any of the costs, deduct this from the allowable rate.
You’ll need to have records of your business mileage, including:
You’ll need a summary of your calculation with any claim for relief on what you’ve spent.
You’ll need your receipts.
A multi-billion pound boost to social housing across England was confirmed today (26 June 2018) by Secretary of State for Communities, The Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP, as part of the drive to build the homes communities need.
Around 23,000 new affordable homes will be delivered through a £1.67 billion government investment deal. This will include at least 12,500 social rent homes in high cost areas in a move to support families struggling to pay their rent.
This is part of the government’s £9 billion investment in affordable homes, £1.67 billion of which was announced in March 2018 for London. This latest funding will deliver homes across the rest of the country.
The Communities Secretary also heralded a new generation of council housing by inviting local authorities to bid for a share of £1 billion extra borrowing to build much-needed homes. This £1 billion borrowing cap raise will be split equally between London and the rest of England.
Local authorities have requested this extra financial flexibility, which will be allocated to those in areas with the highest affordability pressures to ensure homes are built where they are needed most.
These new measures are part of the government’s ambitious plans to build 1.5 million new homes by 2022 through planning reform and targeted investment.
The Rt. Hon James Brokenshire MP, Secretary of State for Communities, said:
The government has ambitious plans to fix the broken housing market and build the homes our communities need.
Today’s announcement is a further milestone. It will secure the delivery of an additional 23,000 much-needed affordable homes as well as paving the way for a new generation of council houses.
The majority of these new homes will be in high cost areas helping to ease the burden of rent on hard working families and delivering stronger communities.
A bidding process will now begin for both programmes, with successful bids for the affordable homes funding notified throughout the year. A list of successful councils who have had their borrowing caps increased will be announced in due course. Full story
Foster carers to receive the 30 hours free childcare offer for children in their care for the first time from September 2018.
The Government also announces that over 340,000 children were in a 30 hour place in the first year of the policy.
Foster parents will have access to the Government’s flagship 30 hours free childcare offer for three-and-four-year-olds from September, giving them the same rights as other working families in England.
The extension marks a significant step forward in improving the support available for foster families who work, allowing them to take up the additional 15 hours of free childcare already available to other working parents since September 2017.
Today (21 June) the Department for Education has also published data showing over 340,000 children aged three and four years old benefitted from a 30 hours place in its first year, giving thousands of families access to high-quality, affordable childcare. Parents benefiting from the 30 hours free childcare offer can save up to £5,000 per year on their childcare costs, and some parents have been able to increase their work hours or work more flexibly - helping to put more money back in families’ pockets and balancing work and home lives.
Minister for Children and Families, Nadhim Zahawi said:
We know childcare is one of the biggest issues affecting working parents of all kinds, which is why I am pleased that 340,000 people have benefitted from 30 hours of free childcare. Foster parents do an incredible job caring for children whose young lives have been disrupted in difficult and often traumatic ways, bringing them back into a supportive family unit and providing a more settled home life.
We want to make sure foster parents have the option of being able to work on top of their caring responsibilities, where it works for them and the children they care for. For many, this could make the difference between being able to foster or not, so it’s absolutely right that we support them with this challenging but rewarding role.
The 30 hours free childcare offer is backed by the government’s record investment of around £6 billion per year in childcare, which includes an extra £1 billion per year by 2020 to deliver the free entitlements.
Kevin Williams, Chief Executive of The Fostering Network said:
We warmly welcome this announcement which has rectified the initial exclusion of fostered children from this policy, and are pleased that the Department for Education listened to our calls for change.
The 15 extra hours will not be appropriate for all fostered children, but some foster carers, particularly family and friends carers and those offering long-term fostering, will need or want to combine fostering with work outside of the home, and this change will enable them to be able to do so. This is particularly good news for the recruitment of foster carers and is consistent with the message from Government that fostering can be combined with other work.
The move widens the range of childcare support already available from the Government, which parents who are not eligible for 30 hours may be able to access. This includes the universal offer of 15 hours of free childcare for three and four-year-olds, 15 free hours for the most disadvantaged two-year-olds, and Tax-Free Childcare, which can cut childcare costs by up to £2,000 per year for each child under 12 years old.
Making key parts of the Ordnance Survey (OS) MasterMap freely available will help businesses use geospatial data more easily and drive innovation across the UK economy.
As part of the Prime Minister’s London Tech Week roundtable today, the government has announced that key parts of the OS MasterMap will be made openly available for the public and businesses to use.
It is estimated that this will boost the UK economy by at least £130m each year, as innovative companies and startups use the data.
The release of OS MasterMap data is one of the first projects to be delivered by the new Geospatial Commission, in conjunction with Ordnance Survey. The aim is to continue to drive forward the UK as a world leader in location data, helping to grow the UK’s digital economy by an estimated £11bn each year.
This is a step on a journey towards more open geospatial data infrastructure for the UK.
Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster and Minister for the Cabinet Office, David Lidington, said
Opening up OS MasterMap underlines this Government’s commitment to ensuring the UK continues to lead the way in digital innovation. Releasing this valuable government data for free will help stimulate innovation in the economy, generate jobs and improve public services.
Location-aware technologies - using geospatial data - are revolutionising our economy. From navigating public transport to tracking supply chains and planning efficient delivery routes, these digital services are built on location data that has become part of everyday life and business.
The newly available data should be particularly useful to small firms and entrepreneurs to realise their ideas and compete with larger organisations, encouraging greater competition and innovation.
OS MasterMap data already supports emerging technologies such as driverless vehicles, 5G and connected cities - important drivers of economic growth.
Today’s announcement follows the launch of the first GovTech challenge in May this year - a competition designed to incentivise Britain’s tech firms to come up with innovative solutions to improve public services. These competitions will be delivered using the £20m GovTech fund launched by the Prime Minister in November 2017. Full story
People with diabetes are advised to stop using and return specific lots of Accu-Chek Aviva and Accu-Chek Performa test strips following a recent recall by the manufacturer.
Accu-Chek Inform II test strips have also been recalled but are supplied in the UK by Roche for professional use only.
The test strips, commonly used by diabetics for blood glucose testing, may give increased strip error messages prior to dosing with blood and in some cases may give falsely high or low readings which may be hard to detect.
The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) are urging users to check the lot numbers of their test strips against the lot numbers listed in the table below. More information can be found in this field safety notice. It is estimated that more than 260,000 packs have been affected.
If anyone finds they have test strips from the affected lots, they are advised to seek alternative testing methods and return affected lots to their pharmacy or shop where they will be offered a replacement.
It is also advised anyone with concerns about their blood glucose readings should discuss this with a healthcare professional.
(Please note the FSN only applies to the pack of Performa 10 test strips contained within the kit)
It is important people check their test strips and if necessary seek alternatives as soon as possible.
If people have any questions about their blood glucose readings when using these test strips and meters they should speak with their doctor or pharmacist.
Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch announces move to better protect consumers and communities.
The maximum stakes on Fixed Odds Betting Terminals (FOBTs) are to be reduced from £100 to £2 to reduce the risk of gambling-related harm, Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch announced today.
The move comes off the back of a consultation with the public and the industry to ensure that we have the right balance between a sector that can grow and contribute to the economy and one that is socially responsible and doing all it should to protect consumers and communities.
The government wants to reduce the potential for large losses on FOBT (category B2) machines and the risk of harm to both the player and wider communities. Following analysis of consultation responses and advice from the Gambling Commission, the government believes that a cut to £2 will best achieve this.
The Gambling Commission has also been tasked to take forward discussions with the industry to improve player protection measures on B1 and B3 category machines, looking at spend and time limits.
DCMS Secretary of State Matt Hancock said:
When faced with the choice of halfway measures or doing everything we can to protect vulnerable people, we have chosen to take a stand. These machines are a social blight and prey on some of the most vulnerable in society, and we are determined to put a stop to it and build a fairer society for all.
Minister for Sport and Civil Society Tracey Crouch said:
Problem gambling can devastate individuals’ lives, families and communities. It is right that we take decisive action now to ensure a responsible gambling industry that protects the most vulnerable in our society. By reducing FOBT stakes to £2 we can help stop extreme losses by those who can least afford it.
While we want a healthy gambling industry that contributes to the economy, we also need one that does all it can to protect players. We are increasing protections around online gambling, doing more on research, education and treatment of problem gambling and ensuring tighter rules around gambling advertising. We will work with the industry on the impact of these changes and are confident that this innovative sector will step up and help achieve this balance.
In addition to the reduction to FOBT stakes the government has today confirmed:
The Gambling Commission will toughen up protections around online gambling including stronger age verification rules and proposals to require operators to set limits on consumers’ spending until affordability checks have been conducted.
A major multi-million pound advertising campaign promoting responsible gambling, supported by industry and GambleAware, will be launched later this year.
The Industry Group for Responsible Gambling (IGRG) has amended its code to ensure that a responsible gambling message will appear for the duration of all TV adverts.
Public Health England will carry out a review of the evidence relating to the public health harms of gambling.
As part of the next licence competition the age limit for playing National Lottery games will be reviewed, to take into accounts developments in the market and the risk of harm to young people. Full story
Funding given to local communities that are worst affected by suicide to develop suicide prevention and reduction schemes.
The investment, announced today by the Department for Health and Social Care, Public Health England (PHE) and NHS England marks the start of a 3-year programme worth £25 million that will reach the whole country by 2021.
It forms part of the government’s commitment to reduce suicides in England by 10% by 2021 and will support the zero suicide ambition for mental health inpatients announced by Secretary of State Jeremy Hunt in January of this year.
Currently one person every 90 minutes dies by suicide in the UK and approximately two thirds of these are not in contact with mental health services.
The funding, which has been allocated to 8 sustainability and transformation partnerships (STPs) with a high level of need, will help to ensure people know high-quality confidential help is available within their community. It will include targeted prevention campaigns for men; psychological support for people with financial difficulties; better care after discharge; and improved self-harm services for all ages.
The funds are set to improve suicide prevention strategies, signposting and raising awareness through to improving quality for safer services and will help drive better surveillance and collection of data on suicide, attempted suicide and self-harm.
It builds upon major work from all local authorities to put multi-agency suicide plans in place, and work for a close join up between health services, public health teams and the voluntary sector.
Jackie Doyle-Price, Minister for Mental Health, said:
Every single suicide is a tragedy – which is why this funding is so vital. Working with the Samaritans and others in high risk areas, we will make sure people get the care they need as early as possible, because that is what saves lives. All local areas are developing suicide prevention plans and this work will support our ‘zero suicide’ ambition in mental health inpatient units.
Duncan Selbie, Chief Executive at Public Health England, said:
Suicide destroys lives and is devastating for the loved ones they leave behind. We need to do everything we can to offer more help to people in distress and this is a big step towards that.
Claire Murdoch, NHS England Director for Mental Health, said:
The NHS is committed to improving mental health services and increasing people’s access to help, when they need it the most. Working closely with families, councils, government and charities like the Samaritans, the additional funding and suicide prevention plans confirmed today will mean more people in crisis, in some of the most under-served parts of the country, will be able to get the crucial support they need.
Working closely with those who have been impacted by suicide and those with national expertise, including the Samaritans, the areas to receive funding this year have been identified due to their high level of need and will focus on particularly at-risk groups such as men and those who self-harm. Full story
BEIS and HMRC launch campaign urging underpaid workers to complain as figures show that the number of workers getting the money they're owed has doubled.
HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) has more than doubled the number of underpaid workers getting the money they’re owed under the National Minimum Wage, according to latest figures.
In 2017 to 2018, HMRC investigators identified £15.6 million in pay owed to more than a record 200,000 of the UK’s lowest paid workers, and up from £10.9 million for more than 98,000 workers last year.
HMRC launched its online complaints service in January 2017, and this has contributed to the 132% increase in the number of complaints received over the last year and the amount of money HMRC has been able to recoup for those unfairly underpaid.
The figures are published as the government launches its annual advertising campaign designed to encourage workers to take action if they are not receiving the National Living Wage or the National Minimum Wage. The online campaign, which runs over the summer, urges underpaid workers to proactively complain by completing an HMRC online form.
The online service is a quick and easy way for anyone with concerns about not being paid the National Minimum Wage to report an employer or former employer anonymously.
Industries most complained about to HMRC include restaurants, bars, hotels and hairdressing.
If you think that you are not receiving at least the minimum wage, you can contact Acas, in confidence, on 0300 123 1100, or submit a query online
Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said:
Employers abusing the system and paying under the legal minimum are breaking the law. Short changing workers is a red line for this government and employers who cross the line will be identified by HMRC and forced to pay back every penny, and could be hit with fines of up to 200% of wages owed.
I would urge all workers, if you think you might be being underpaid then you should check your pay and call Acas on 0300 123 1100 for free and confidential advice. Full story
The CMA has secured more than £2 million in compensation for residents of a major care homes group as part of an investigation into compulsory ‘upfront fees’.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) welcomes Sunrise Senior Living Ltd’s (Sunrise) decision to give money back to the vast majority of residents who paid such fees since 1 October 2015. This will apply to residents who have left or leave within 2 years of moving in to one of the company’s care homes. If the resident unfortunately dies within this time, their family will receive the compensation.
The move comes as part of the CMA’s ongoing investigation into how some care homes charge for their services. This uncovered that Sunrise’s description of its upfront fee - running to several thousands of pounds per person - and how it would be used, was unclear. Moreover, prospective residents were having to pay out before they had secured a place at the home.
The CMA also raised concerns that the fee was non-refundable once someone had lived in the home for more than 30 days.
On top of individual pay-outs of £3,000 on average, Sunrise has provided legally-binding commitments to stop charging these upfront fees altogether for future residents. They have also agreed to abide by new CMA guidance about the charging of fees after a resident has died, which is soon to be finalised and published following a consultation.
George Lusty, the CMA’s Senior Director for Consumer Protection, said:
Care home residents shouldn’t be required to pay out thousands of pounds without being clear what they’re getting for their money. So, it’s only right that residents at Sunrise care homes will now receive compensation if they’ve paid these fees, and that future residents won’t have to make such payments at all.
The CMA welcomes Sunrise’s constructive engagement and co-operation throughout our investigation. We’re now continuing our enforcement action against other care homes, and expect all homes to review their practices to make sure they aren’t breaking consumer law. We will act if we find evidence that they are. Full story.
The stress of applying for a divorce could be eased thanks to a new online service that removes the need for paper forms.
The online service offers prompts and guidance to assist people in completing their application, and uses clear, non-technical language. The whole process can be completed online, including payment and uploading supporting evidence.
More than 1,000 petitions were issued through the new system during the testing phase – with 91% of people saying they were satisfied with the service. The new, refined and easy to use version was rolled out across England and Wales from 1 May.
Court staff currently spend 13,000 hours dealing with complex paper divorce forms, but this simpler and less technical online service has already contributed to a 95% drop in the number of applications being returned because of mistakes, when compared with paper forms. This means only 0.6% of forms have been rejected since January.
Justice Minister Lucy Frazer, said:
Allowing divorce applications to be made online will help make sure we are best supporting people going through an often difficult and painful time.
More people will have the option of moving from paper-based processes to online systems which will cut waste, speed up services which can be safely expedited, and otherwise better fit with modern day life.
These changes are part of £1 billion programme to transform the court system - making it quicker, more accessible and easier to use for all. Other examples of the government’s court reforms which are making access to justice easier for everyone include:
Damian Hinds to overhaul “confusing” system of school accountability to give teachers more freedom and to boost development opportunities for new teachers.
Education Secretary Damian Hinds will clearly set out how the Government will “trust school leaders to get on with the job” by clarifying who schools are accountable to and boosting development opportunities for new teachers.
In an address to more than 350 school leaders at the National Association of Head Teachers’ (NAHT) annual conference in Liverpool on Friday (4 May), the Secretary of State will set out plans for a clearer system of accountability that will let good schools get on with their job, free from the “spectre” of multiple inspections by making it clear that “the only people who should go to schools for inspections are Ofsted”.
Mr Hinds will announce a consultation to replace the “confusing” system of having both floor and coasting standards to measure school performance, with a single measure to trigger support for schools. This will be backed by a clear statement on when schools convert to academy status to drive improvement.
In a pledge to the profession, published today, the Secretary of State will underline his commitment to give school leaders the confidence to raise standards in their schools and free up teachers to focus on what really matters in the classroom.
Accountability is vital. Children only get one shot at an education and we owe them the best…where they are being let down we need to take action quickly – so no one ends up left behind.
But what I’ve found from speaking to many of you these last few months is that there is also real confusion within the sector… I believe school leaders need complete clarity on how the accountability system will operate.
I’m clear that Ofsted is the body that can provide an independent, rounded judgement of a school’s performance.
This means we will not be forcibly turning schools into academies unless Ofsted has judged it to be Inadequate.
I believe strongly that becoming an academy can bring enormous benefits to schools. Hundreds of schools every year voluntarily choose to become academies and I want this to be a positive choice for more and more schools as we move forward.
We must also have a system that does more than just deal with failure… But we will do so in the right way, and there will be a single, transparent data trigger for schools to be offered support – which we will consult on.
I intend this to replace the current confusing system of having both below the floor and coasting standards for performance…
I have a clear message to schools and their leaders: I trust you to get on with the job. Full story
A new government bill finally entered parliament on 2nd May 18, it will ban letting fees across England and is set to save tenants millions of pounds and make the market fairer and more transparent.
Unexpected letting fees and high deposits can cause a significant affordability problem for tenants and are often not clearly explained – leaving many residents unaware of the true costs of renting a property.
Introduced into Parliament today (2 May 2018), the Tenant Fees Bill will bring an end to costly letting fees and save tenants around £240 million a year, according to government figures.
The Bill will also give tenants greater assurances that the deposit they pay at the start of the tenancy cannot exceed 6 weeks’ rent.
Housing Secretary Rt Hon James Brokenshire MP said:
This government is determined to build a housing market fit for the future. Tenants across the country should not be stung by unexpected costs.
That’s why we’re delivering our promise to ban letting fees, alongside other measures to make renting fairer and more transparent.
The Tenant Fees Bill will stop letting agents from exploiting their position as intermediaries between landlords and tenants, and prevent unfair practices such as double charging for the same services.
It will also help to increase competition between agents and landlords, which could help drive lower costs overall and a higher quality of service for tenants.
Other key measures in the Bill, which reflects feedback from a recent public consultation and pre-legislative scrutiny from the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee, include:
capping holding deposits at no more than one week’s rent. The Bill also sets out the proposed requirements on landlords and agents to return a holding deposit to a tenant
capping the amount that can be charged for a change to tenancy at £50 unless the landlord demonstrates that greater costs were incurred
creating a financial penalty with a fine of £5,000 for an initial breach of the ban with a criminal offence where a person has been fined or convicted of the same offence within the last 5 years. Financial penalties of up to £30,000 can be issued as an alternative to prosecution
requiring Trading Standards to enforce the ban and to make provision for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees via the First-tier Tribunal
prevents landlords from recovering possession of their property via the section 21 Housing Act 1988 procedure until they have repaid any unlawfully charged fees
enabling the appointment of a lead enforcement authority in the lettings sector
amending the Consumer Rights Act 2015 to specify that the letting agent transparency requirements should apply to property portals such as Rightmove and Zoopla
local authorities will be able to retain the money raised through financial penalties with this money reserved for future local housing enforcement. Full story
Support for children who may otherwise be in local authority care is to be extended in Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit.
Secretary of State Esther McVey has announced to Parliament today (27 April 2018) that support for children who may otherwise be in local authority care is to be extended in Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit.
Currently, the policy provides support in Universal Credit and Child Tax Credit for a maximum of 2 children in a household unless exceptions apply, to ensure parents in receipt of benefits face the same choices as those supporting themselves solely through work. Child Benefit continues to be paid regardless of family size.
The government recognises that in some situations parents cannot make the same choices about the number of children in their household. We have introduced a number of exceptions for third or subsequent children in those cases, for example multiple births, adoption and children who would otherwise be taken into care but instead are looked after by a non-parental carer. This may be where a family member has stepped in to care for children.
For these children who may otherwise be taken into local authority care, the exceptions will be extended to provide support for them regardless of the order in which they entered the household.
Secretary of State Esther McVey said:
I have been reviewing this issue carefully since becoming Secretary of State a few months ago.
Adoptive parents and non-parental carers, known as ‘kinship carers’, have often stepped in to help a family member or close friend in times of need. They have provided support and provided a home for a child in need. It is therefore right that Government supports them in doing so. That is why today I am extending the existing support for children and families in these circumstances.
The role these parents play in helping to bring up these children is invaluable, and I want to reassure such parents that this change ensures support will be made available to you, and this government is backing you.
Universal Credit is a brand new benefit, that is flexible and responsive, so as we begin to deliver it across the country we are taking a test and learn approach, and if need be, adapting where necessary. This is precisely what we have done here to make sure there is support given where it is needed most. Full story
A government review into rules that require carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted in homes across England has been announced.
A government review into rules that require carbon monoxide alarms to be fitted in homes across England has been announced on 30 April 2018 by Housing Minister Dominic Raab.
Around 8 million carbon monoxide alarms are currently installed in homes across England – a requirement when solid fuel appliances such as wood burning stoves and boilers are installed, as well as in private rental properties that feature a solid fuel appliance.
Launching later this year, the review will examine the regulations closely to establish whether they remain fit for purpose.
This will include whether there should be a blanket requirement to install alarms for all methods of heating, including gas and oil.
The review will also consider whether the cost of alarms is affecting installation rates and will look at new research into the number of carbon monoxide poisonings.
The announcement follows on-going discussions between ministers at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government and Eddie Hughes MP, who has called for extending the regulations to cover all social housing tenants and all combustion appliance types.
Housing Minister Dominic Raab said:
Carbon monoxide can be a silent killer and my top priority is to ensure people remain safe and protected in their own homes.
Working with Eddie Hughes, who has a long track record of campaigning on this issue, this review will look into the adequacy of the current laws and ensure they are providing residents with the necessary protection.
Eddie Hughes MP said:
I’m pleased the Housing Minster has responded positively to my campaign and the work done by all those involved in raising awareness of this silent killer.
I look forward to the outcome of the review and will continue to campaign for improved safety to protect others from the threat of carbon monoxide poisoning. Full story
New law will see touts using automated software to bulk buy tickets for resale on secondary ticketing sites at inflated prices face an unlimited fine
The new offence will mean touts using automated software to bulk buy tickets for resale on secondary ticketing sites at hugely inflated prices will face an unlimited fine.
London musical Hamilton saw tickets being advertised on the secondary ticketing market for up to £6,000. While artists including Adele and Ed Sheeran have also been targeted by professional touts. The Government’s work places the UK at the forefront of the fight against touts exploiting real fans.
I’m determined to make sure everyone has the chance to see their favourite stars at a fair price.
This week we will reach the final stage in our fight to beat rip-off ticket touts using bots to buy huge numbers of tickets only to sell them on at massively over-inflated prices.
Our work, together with improvements by industry, will give consumers greater protection, make the market more transparent and help Britain’s live events scene continue to thrive.
Fans have a right to know exactly what they’re signing up to on ticket resale websites, but all too often people are left feeling ripped off when the ticket doesn’t match expectations.
We’re taking steps to crack down on touts using “bots” to bulk buy tickets for resale and last week’s new rules will also improve transparency in this market.
This new legislation is important, and we need it to be activated and enforced. By reducing the means of dedicated touts to bulk harvest tickets, Government can help recalibrate the live music market and give fans a better opportunity to buy tickets at a price the artist sets.
I’m delighted the Government has listened to calls from UK Music and industry campaigners like the FanFair Alliance to ban bots.
This new law is an important step to ensure transparency in the resale ticket market. We need the law to be fully enforced to protect music fans from being ripped off. We also need much stronger action from Google which is still directing fans to sites like Viagogo at the top of an online search, rather than to official ticketing.
Music fans have been fleeced for far too long and we will continue to work with Government to ensure our fantastic live music industry continues to bring enjoyment to millions of people and to make over a £1 billion annual contribution to the UK economy.
The new legislation, being brought forward thanks to a provision in the Digital Economy Act, is part of a wider government drive to make sure genuine fans are not losing out through the secondary ticketing market.
The Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy introduced new rules requiring ticket resellers to provide more information around resold event tickets. Resellers now have to supply any unique ticket numbers (UTN) to the buyer to identify a ticket’s seat, standing area or location.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) is taking enforcement action against secondary ticketing websites suspected of breaking consumer law, Trading Standards has been conducting raids across the UK to pursue those suspected of potential breaches of the Unfair Trading Regulations, and the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is clamping down on misleading prices and charges on secondary ticketing websites. Full story
Laws will make it easier for directors to remove personal addresses from the company register while ensuring transparency.
New laws to help protect company directors from identity fraud and personal harm will be introduced by the Government today (22 February).
The new laws will enable company directors to remove their personal addresses from the UK’s official company register on Companies House. Directors must still provide their business address as a legal requirement.
This comes in response to reports that fraudsters are using this publicly available information to pose as company directors to buy products online. There are also concerns the information is leaving company directors vulnerable to violence and intimidation.
They are twice as likely to be the victims of identity fraud, with company directors being victims in one in five recorded cases, according to research by fraud prevention organisation Cifas.
These new regulations will also help to ensure people feel safe when setting up a new business by protecting directors from identity fraud.
Business Minister Andrew Griffiths said:
Through our Industrial Strategy we have set our blueprint for ensuring we build on our reputation as one of the best places in the world to start and grow a business.
These new laws will protect new and existing business owners from potential harm and identity fraud, while ensuring we maintain our high standards of corporate transparency.
Under the new laws, directors can replace their personal addresses with an alternative one, like a company address, where they can be contacted to ensure companies meet their legal requirements.
Currently, personal addresses can only be removed when Companies House and the relevant authorities judge there is a serious risk of violence or intimidation as a result of the company’s work.
The new laws will also ensure transparency in legal information as public authorities such as the police, the insolvency service and the pension regulator will still be able to access directors’ information, such as their personal address.
The laws will come into force by the end of summer 2018.
79 projects will receive funding to support building up to 7,280 homes on council owned land.
A £45 million cash injection into key community projects will help kick-start the building of thousands of new homes, Housing Minister Dominic Raab announced16 February 2018.
As part of government’s drive to get Britain building homes again, a total of 79 projects from Newcastle to Plymouth will receive funding to support building up to 7,280 homes on council owned land.
To support local councils to meet their ambition to unlock enough of land they own for at least 160,000 homes by 2020, they will be able to use the Land Release Fund money to combat barriers which would otherwise make land unusable for development.
The projects – which aim to support building strong communities – include a range of necessary works such as asbestos removal and bat alleviation, as well as schemes that will significantly improve quality of life such as essential relocating of a pelican crossing.
This move comes 2 weeks after the projects set to benefit from the first wave of funding from the £5 billion Housing Infrastructure Fund were announced, helping to get up to 200,000 homes off the ground through investment in local housing projects. This is part of the government’s comprehensive strategy of planning reform and targeted investment to build 300,000 homes a year.
Housing and Planning Minister Dominic Raab said:
We are investing £45 million to build roads and provide utilities, so councils can release the land to get up to 7,280 new homes built.
It’s part of our strategy to build the homes Britain needs, and carry local communities with us.
We’re determined to make buying or renting more affordable for young families and those on low or middle incomes.
Projects from Newcastle to Plymouth will receive funding from the Land Release Fund, which will enable:
Poulton-Le-Fylde, Lancashire, to build new roads, roundabouts, and utility services, which will unlock up to 330 homes potentially built with Japanese modular housing techniques. The works will cost £1.7 million.
Worcester to demolish a leisure centre and undergo asbestos decontamination works near its city centre, helping to unlock up to 50 homes. The project will cost £750,000.
Paignton, Devon, to build a new 350m sewer, drainage upgrades and 2 new roads, which will help unlock up to 200 homes. The works will cost £1.9 million.
Brighton, Sussex, to divert a public sewer and make electricity substation and highways improvements. The £335,000 project will help unlock up to 30 homes. Full story
Pooled company cars are tax and NI free for the employees who drive them. However, HMRC closely scrutinises any claim for pool car treatment. What key conditions should you impose on the use of a car to keep on the right side of HMRC?
Pooled company cars are often seen as a potential tax and NI-free benefit in kind, but with tricky qualifying conditions. We think that’s the wrong way to look at them. The reason they aren’t taxable is because they must not provide the user with any personal benefit. The qualifying conditions are tough to ensure that a tax and NI bill occurs where a benefit arises. The real trick is keeping in line with these so you don’t get hit for tax and NI in a situation where you actually gain very little personal benefit from using the car.
Any company car used by a director or employee is potentially a taxable perk, even if it’s only used for business, and several tribunal decisions have gone HMRC’s way to prove the point. Company car drivers can rely on the pooled car get-out only where the vehicle is not available for private journeys and all the following conditions are met. The car:
The first step to ensuring that pooled car users aren’t clobbered with a tax charge is to set a company policy that the vehicle isn’t to be used for personal journeys. This can be set out in a separate document or as part of your company’s staff handbook. In practice, HMRC accepts some personal benefit can be obtained from using a pooled car without triggering a tax charge in two situations.
The first situation where personal travel in a pool car is permitted without triggering a tax charge is where a director or employee takes it home overnight solely so they can get an early start for a business journey the next day.
Also, directors and employees won’t be taxed for obtaining a personal advantage from using a company pool car where the use is incidental to the business travel. For example, a sales rep is visiting a customer and, without driving the car further, takes the opportunity to do some sightseeing or shopping in the local area.
Trap. Don’t confuse incidental with minimal personal use. Strictly, the latter results in a tax charge. For example, had the rep clocked up a few more miles to do his sightseeing that would not count as incidental and so a tax benefit could arise. In practice, HMRC would probably overlook occasional minor breaches of this rule mainly, we suspect, because it’s almost impossible for it to prove that personal travel took place.
Tip. Don’t give HMRC a reason to suspect that a car was used for private mileage. Ensure drivers keep a log of every mile driven in the car on business and that it tallies with the odometer in the vehicle.
New measures have been announced to crack down on bad practices, stamp out overcrowding and improve standards for those renting in the private sector.
Rogue landlords have been put on notice as government has announced today (28 December 2017) a raft of new measures to crack down on bad practices, stamp out overcrowding and improve standards for those renting in the private sector.
Housing Minister Alok Sharma has set out how, subject to parliamentary clearance, landlords renting properties in England occupied by 5 or more people, from 2 or more separate households will need to be licensed.
The move, affecting around 160,000 houses, will mean councils can take further action to crack down on unscrupulous landlords renting sub-standard and overcrowded homes.
Government has also set out details of criminal offences which will automatically ban someone from being a landlord. From April next year, someone convicted of offences such as burglary and stalking can be added to the database of rogue landlords and be barred from renting properties.
These latest measures build on government action to date to drive up safety and standards in the private rented sector. This includes bringing in fines of up to £30,000 for dodgy landlords, protections for tenants from revenge evictions and £12 million funding for councils to take enforcement action in hotspot areas.
Housing and Planning Minister Alok Sharma said:
Every tenant has a right to a safe, secure and decent home. But far too many are being exploited by unscrupulous landlords who profit from providing overcrowded, squalid and sometimes dangerous homes.
Enough is enough and so I’m putting these rogue landlords on notice - shape up or ship out of the rental business.
Through a raft of new powers we are giving councils the further tools they need to crack down these rogue landlords and kick them out of the business for good.
The move will also benefit wider communities fed up with living near shoddily maintained properties without proper bins, dumped rubbish and anti social behaviour. Landlords will be held responsible for making sure the council’s rules on refuse and recycling are followed.
New rules will also come into force setting minimum size requirements for bedrooms in houses of multiple occupation to prevent overcrowding. As part of the licencing requirements, local councils will be able to make sure only rooms meeting the standard are used for sleeping. Full story
Plans to protect consumers from unresolved debts which can damage people’s credit ratings without them knowing have been unveiled today.
The government has launched a consultation on how county court judgments (CCJs) are issued, after concerns were raised that some rogue companies were deliberately sending claims to consumers using incorrect addresses. Credit ratings can be devastated, and the issue may only come to light years later when the individual’s application for a mortgage, loan or car on finance is rejected.
A consultation launched today will seek formal evidence on the scale of the problem, and consult on how best to protect consumers and businesses.
Launching the consultation, Justice Minister Dominic Raab said:
We want to protect vulnerable consumers from abuse by rogue companies that can destroy the credit rating of innocent people without them even knowing about it.
Debts should be paid, not exploited by a minority of cowboys who need reining in.
Over the past four years, the number of CCJs has risen by almost two thirds (59%), with over one million issued in 2016.
Throughout this year evidence has been gathered and discussions conducted with consumer groups, advice organisations and across government to assess the scale of the issue and ensure the right proposals are made.
Work is also going on in other government departments. The government has already taken steps to tackle rogue private parking operators, including banning wheel clamping and towing.
They are considering how they can deliver standardised practice across all parking companies, eliminating unfair charges and reducing the instances of claims where the consumer may be unaware of a parking charge being applied. Full story
Recipients of Universal Credit full service who are self-employed can now receive business mentoring if their earnings are low.
This is part of the government’s commitment to small businesses. Initial mentoring can last for up to 12 weeks and includes workshops on topics including financial planning and marketing support, as well as help in creating a business development and growth plan. If the plan is viable, people can receive a further year of support and mentoring.
This programme of support for people who are already self-employed builds on the success of the New Enterprise Allowance (NEA) programme. The NEAoffers mentoring, a weekly allowance for 6 months and access to a start-up loan to people who are out of work and would like to start their own business. Figures out today show that over 111,000 businesses have already been started with the support of the NEA.
The latest NEA figures show that the north-west had the highest number of start-ups (17,020) followed by London (13,410) and Yorkshire and the Humber (12,150).
Minister for Employment Damian Hinds said:
The NEA has been a huge success in supporting enterprising jobseekers turn their business dreams into a reality, and now we’re offering mentoring to help people in receipt of Universal Credit who are already self-employed as they grow their businesses.
Small businesses are the backbone of our economy and we want to do all we can to ensure people succeed.
The figures also show that of the people who have started up a business with NEA support:
111,540 businesses have been set up through the NEA scheme. The financial support is paid as a weekly allowance of £65 a week for 13 weeks and then £33 for the following 13 weeks (a total of £1,274 over 26 weeks) Full story
It has long been recognised that SMEs that take the time to seek advice from mentors improve their chance of success. We’ve looked at online tips and advice.
An online gateway to mentors. The MentorsMe site (http://www.mentorsme.co.uk/) is aimed at SMEs who want to contact a mentoring organisation. The site has a straightforward search engine which allows you to define your status (start-up, established, etc.) and region of the UK. There are filters such as free/membership, face-to-face, telephone/online. The site includes resources and several case studies. There is a lack of social network presence but acts as a good mentor database. It is possible to become a mentor too. The initiative was created by the Business Finance Trust.
Entrepreneurs are welcome here. SMEs looking for advice in this domain can head to the Institute of Enterprise and Entrepreneurs (IOEE, http://ioee.uk/). Affiliate membership of the Institute will allow you access to the mentoring programme, to online resources and to the community (Q&A, events, etc.). There are a variety of courses available online and the Twitter account ((@TheIOEE) is active and could be useful for news and tips.
Advice at start-up time and later. The Startups site (https://startups.co.uk/finding-a-mentor/) is a useful source of advice. It has articles on finding and approaching a mentor and why you should get a mentor in the first place. The articles are not that recent but the advice remains sound. SmallBusiness(http://smallbusiness.co.uk/) has a number of articles on the value of finding a mentor - type “business mentoring” in the search engine. The Twitter feeds of both are frequently updated, lively and valuable.
Government advice. In terms of help for SMEs to find mentors, government sites such as GOV.UK (https://www.gov.uk/ ) and BUSINESS IS GREAT (http://www.greatbusiness.gov.uk/) are, frankly, disappointing. The former lacks relevant content, while the latter site has a few articles that basically say “get a mentor”. The BUSINESS IS GREAT Twitter account (@businessisgreat) has seen no action for six months.
This advice was taken from:
e-Tips & Advice for Business Owners
All those eligible for employment tribunal fee refunds can apply from today, following a successful opening phase of the scheme.
The refund scheme comes after Ministers committed to reimbursing those who had paid employment tribunal fees following a Supreme Court judgment. The court recognised the important role fees can play, but ruled that the government had not struck the right balance in this case.
The opening stage of the phased implementation scheme was launched in October, with around 1,000 people given the chance to complete applications. This first phase has now been successfully completed, and anyone who thinks they may be eligible for a refund can now apply on GOV.UK.
During the creation of the scheme the government has been working with trade unions who have supported large multiple claims potentially involving hundreds of claimants, and ahead of the full launch people were invited to pre-register their interest in applying.
"We will continue to work with the unions to ensure those who are eligible are able to claim a refund."
HMRC has recently launched a dedicated tax support service for growing mid-sized businesses.
A mid-sized business is classed as having a turnover of more than £10 million or at least 20 employees. The new Growth Support Service will offer will offer a dedicated support service tailored to the needs of businesses, helping to ensure they get the information and support needed as they grow. This could include:
• helping with tax queries about their growing business
• discussing reporting requirements, compliance and governance risks
• supplying accurate information and coordinating technical expertise from across HMRC
• supporting them to get their tax right first time and access relevant incentives or reliefs.
Mid-sized businesses who meet the eligibility requirements, based on our criteria for significant growth, can apply online and will be contacted by a dedicated growth support specialist to discuss their circumstances. The service is not designed to help with speculative queries or provide advice on tax avoidance or how the business should grow. To find out more about the service and check to see if your business is eligible for this support go to – Get help with tax as a growing mid-sized business.
If you’re not experiencing one of the types of growth mentioned, you may be able to get support from the mid-sized business Customer Engagement Team.
Draft Tenant Fees Bill will be introduced to Parliament to ban letting fees for tenants.
A new draft bill will be introduced to Parliament today (1 November 2017) to ban letting fees.
The draft Tenant Fees Bill will set out the government’s approach to banning letting fees for tenants, helping millions of renters by bringing an end to costly upfront payments.
Evidence shows the level of fees charged are often not clearly or consistently explained, leaving many tenants unaware of the true costs of renting a property.
This latest action will help improve transparency, affordability and competition in the private rental market. It will also prevent agents from double charging both tenants and landlords for the same services.
Today the government has also launched a consultation on making membership of client money protection schemes mandatory for letting and managing agents that handle client money.
These schemes ensure greater financial protection for landlords and tenants, giving them complete confidence that their money is safe when it is with their agent and they can be compensated if all or part of their money is not repaid.
Communities Secretary Sajid Javid said:
"This government is determined to make sure the housing market works for everyone. Tenants should no longer be hit by surprise fees they may struggle to afford and should only be required to pay their rent alongside a refundable deposit. We’re delivering on our promise to ban letting agent fees, alongside other measures to make renting fairer and increase protection for renters."
As part of wider plans to improve the rental market, government has already introduced measures that crack down on the small minority of rogue landlords that shirk their responsibilities. Earlier this year, the law was changed to allow councils to impose new fines of up to £30,000 as an alternative to prosecution for a range of housing offences.
The draft Tenant Fees Bill, which reflects responses from a public consultation also published today, will:
Cap holding deposits at no more than one week’s rent and security deposits at no more than 6 weeks’ rent. The draft bill also sets out the proposed requirements on landlords and agents to return a holding deposit to a tenant.
Create a civil offence with a fine of £5,000 for an initial breach of the ban on letting agent fees and creating a criminal offence where a person has been fined or convicted of the same offence within the last 5 years. Civil penalties of up to £30,000 can be issued as an alternative to prosecution.
Require Trading Standards to enforce the ban and to make provision for tenants to be able to recover unlawfully charged fees.
Appoint a lead enforcement authority in the lettings sector.
New plans mean people struggling with serious debt may soon benefit from a ‘breathing space’ from their bills.
The government is seeking views as it develops a way to provide individuals in debt with up to six weeks free from further interest, charges and enforcement action. This period would give those affected time to take action by seeking financial advice about how to manage and relieve their debt burden.
Debt advice is key in helping people access a range of solutions, including informal repayment plans and debt write-off options, in order to help people get back on their feet.
The Economic Secretary to the Treasury, Stephen Barclay, said:
"For many people in the UK problem debt seems impossible to escape. Its effects can be far-reaching, impacting all aspects of a person’s life and leaving them feeling helpless. That is why we are working to give people who are overwhelmed by debt more time to seek advice, find a workable solution, and help get their lives back on track."
Although many people can and do use credit successfully to manage their personal finances, for the minority who get into difficulties this government wants to offer more support.
The new scheme could include legal protections that would shield individuals from further creditor action once a plan to repay their debts is in place. Full story
HM Revenue and Customs has won a landmark case against a tax avoidance scheme promoter that could lead to the recovery of £110 million.
The victory over scheme promoter, Root2, came after they failed to report a mass-marketed tax avoidance scheme, known as Alchemy, to the tax authority.
The scheme aimed to extract profits from owner-managed companies in the form of winnings from betting on the stock market, which the scheme aimed to ensure would be tax free, rather than in the form of taxable employment income.
HMRC brought the case against Root2 under the Disclosure of Tax Avoidance Scheme (DOTAS) rules, which requires promoters to tell HMRC about tax avoidance schemes they design and sell.
The First-tier Tribunal agreed with HMRC that the promoter did not abide by the DOTAS rules.
Penny Ciniewicz, Director General of HMRC’s Customer Compliance Group, said:
"This is a great victory that sends a clear message to tax avoidance scheme promoters that we will pursue you if you don’t play by the rules. Most tax avoidance schemes don’t work. The DOTAS rules ensure that HMRC is notified of schemes so that we can investigate and challenge them. Designers and promoters of avoidance schemes should come forward now if they haven’t already disclosed a scheme to us. We will take action and nobody should think they can get away with not disclosing their avoidance schemes and misleading users about the need to report them."
HMRC will seek to impose a substantial penalty on the promoter for failure to disclose the scheme. Full story
The driving test will change from Monday 4 December 2017 to include following directions from a sat nav and testing different manoeuvres.
The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) has confirmed that the driving test in England, Scotland and Wales will change from Monday 4 December 2017.
The driving test works differently in Northern Ireland.
The changes are designed to make sure new drivers have the skills they’ll need to help them through a lifetime of safe driving. The changes will only apply to car driving tests to begin with.
The 4 driving test changes
1. Independent driving part of the test will increase to 20 minutes
The independent driving part of the test currently lasts around 10 minutes. During this part of the test, you have to drive without turn-by-turn directions from the driving examiner.
This part of the test will be made longer, so it’ll last around 20 minutes - roughly half of the test.
2. Following directions from a sat nav
During the independent driving part of the test, most candidates will be asked to follow directions from a sat nav.
The examiner will provide the sat nav (a TomTom Start 52) and set it up. You won’t need to set the route - the examiner will do this for you. So, it doesn’t matter what make or model of sat nav you practise with.
You can’t follow directions from your own sat nav during the test - you have to use the one supplied by the examiner.
You’ll be able to ask the examiner for confirmation of where you’re going if you’re not sure. It won’t matter if you go the wrong way unless you make a fault while doing it.
One in 5 driving tests won’t use a sat nav. You’ll need to follow traffic signs instead.
3. Reversing manoeuvres will be changed
The ‘reverse around a corner’ and ‘turn-in-the-road’ manoeuvres will no longer be tested, but you should still be taught them by your instructor.
You’ll be asked to do one of 3 possible reversing manoeuvres:
4. Answering a vehicle safety question while you’re driving
The examiner will ask you 2 vehicle safety questions during your driving test - these are known as the ‘show me, tell me’ questions.
You’ll be asked the:
Following feedback and concerns about the broad scope and short timescales from parliamentary bodies, businesses, the accounting profession and software companies. HMRC has announced significant changes to the roll-out of its Making Tax Digital scheme, which was due to go live from April 2018.
The scope and timetable have now been pared back to a more realistic and workable scheme.
While the general wisdom is that we should all have a will, the absence of one often won’t adversely affect how your estate is distributed (because for smaller estates the intestacy rules might tie in with your wishes) or result in a higher inheritance tax (IHT) bill. What’s more, where you have a will, the tax implications of even seemingly minor clauses need to be considered carefully.
In England and Wales the law says that where two people die, say a married couple, but it isn’t known who died first (for example where they are involved in a fatal accident), the eldest is treated as having died first. This is often referred to as the “commorientes rule”.
The commorientes rule doesn’t apply for IHT purposes. Instead, tax rules say that where the actual date and time of death of two persons can’t be determined they are assumed to have died at exactly the same time (see The next step ). Where there’s a will this can have an big impact on the amount of IHT payable.
Example 1. Bill is older than his wife Jean. Each of their estates are worth £500,000. Their wills include a typical clause for a couple which means the estate of the first to die passes to the survivor. Note that transfers between spouses are exempt from IHT. Bill dies in January 2018 and his estate is inherited by Jean. She dies two months later leaving a total estate of £1 million to her and Bill’s children. After deducting the nil rate band and that transferred from Bill’s estate (for simplicity we’ve assumed that the residence nil rate band doesn’t apply) which total £650,000, IHT is payable on £350,000, i.e. £140,000.
Example 2. The circumstances are the same as in example 1, except Bill and Jean die in an accident in January 2018 and it isn’t known who passed away first. Estate law says that Jean is treated as surviving Bill and so his estate therefore passes to her. This transfer is exempt from IHT. But tax rules say that for IHT purposes they are treated as dying simultaneously. This means Jean’s estate doesn’t include Bill’s when calculating IHT. Thus, Bill’s estate (£500,000) is exempt because it passed to Jean (his spouse), and Jean’s estate (£500,000) is covered by her nil rate band and that transferred from Bill. In other words, both estates escape IHT.
If, as is common, Bill and Jean’s wills include a survivorship clause, e.g. if the other spouse doesn’t survive the first spouse’s death by, say a month or more, the estate of the first to die goes to different beneficiaries, the tax loophole described in Example 2 wouldn’t apply. This is because on Bill’s death his estate would pass to his children and so the spouse exemption wouldn’t apply.
Tip. If your will includes a survivorship clause ask a solicitor to add a caveat that it won’t apply in the event you and your spouse’s death occur together meaning that IHT rules deem them simultaneous.
What SMEs need to know about crowdfunding. Business Insider (http://read.bi/2smlTvW), reports that UK crowdfunding has ackieved an 11% increase in successful campaigns vs QTR 1 2016. The European Commission has an great Guide to Crowdfunding for SMEs (https://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/crowdfunding-guide_en). explaining the sources, benefits, risks &how to for SMEs to raise funds by this method. Startups (http://startups.co.uk/crowdfunding-explained) looks at regulation and and the latest trends.
Equity crowdfunding. Equity crowdfunding - you give up a share of your business in return f or incoming investment. Seedrs (https://www.seedrs.com) this equity funding platform has plans for a secondary market for investors to acquire shares from each other. Crowdcube (https://www.crowdcube.com) this platform boasts almost 0.5 million members.
Peer-to-peer crowdfunding. borrow money from the “crowd” at an agreed rate of interest. Here's 2 of the more high profile platforms - RateSetter(https://www.ratesetter.com) and Zopa(https://www.zopa.com).
Rewards-based crowdfunding. You borrow from investors and they receive a non-financial reward in return. eg Crowdfunder (http://www.crowdfunder.co.uk) with 350,000 members.
A directory of crowdfunding platforms. The CrowdingIndatabase (http://crowdingin.com/platforms/all/all) provides a directory of current crowdfunding platforms with filters to soeed up your search.
The FCA. Here you see what the authority is saying about Crowdfunding (https://www.fca.org.uk)
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We provide our clients with regular updates on changes in taxation regulation, news from the world of accounting and, of course, information about the latest developments at CIS Made Easy.
2012 saw a crackdown by HMRC on CIS Subcontractor Refund Claims due to inflated expenses claims made by “Subbies” and encouraged by unscrupulous accountants/ refund companies. This has involved a targeted series of "practice visits" looking at Subcontractor Tax returns where expenses claimed exceeded 25%-30% of declared income figures. Where anomalies have been discovered HMRC, in some instances, have ordered the expense to be removed from the returns altogether. We can only see this crackdown continuing until the practice of inflated claims is stamped out.
At CIS Made Easy we aim to get you the highest possible LEGITIMATE refund. That is why we charge a value for money FLAT RATE FEE, we have no interest in inflating your claim and charge a fee sufficient for us to spend the necessary time to ensure your claim is robust and compliant. Be wary of unprofessional no win/no fee percentage fee firms as it is in their interest to inflate your claim.
In April our CIS Team had the following significant successes for Limited Company clients:-
Client 1: Contractor Client, we successfully proved an overpayment of Subcontractor deductions of nearly £24,000. This case had been on-going for over a year and there had been considerable resistance from HMRC but despite this we re-buffed all challenges raised.
Client 2: Subcontractor Client, we robustly defended an enquiry into the clients year end return in respect of nearly £320,000 of declared deductions suffered. This involved the preparation of a very detailed defence document amounting to over a hundred documents. HMRC have accepted our case despite significant issues with the Contractors involved.
From 6 April 2009 there is a change in the penalty to pay for late notification to the HMRC that you have commenced self-employment.
Up to 6 April 2009 the penalty was £100 and you had 3 months after commencement of trade to let HMRC know.
From 6 April 2009 the rules have been changed as follows:
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