Brexit Countdown Officially Begins:Formal notification letter received by Brussels

 

The countdown to Brexit has officially begun.

As the British Prime Minister left for parliament to officially brief MPs on the triggering of Article 50, her envoy in Brussels handed over the official notification letter to the EU Council President Donald Tusk. The Article 50 letter. Theresa May signed the Brexit letter on Tuesday.

Tesco pays £129m to settle accounting fraud scandal

 

Tesco is to pay a £129m fine to avoid prosecution over a 2014 accounting fraud.

Between February and September of that year, Tesco misled investors by issuing a trade statement overstating its profits.

Tesco has agreed to pay a penalty of £129m relating to false accounting at Tesco Stores in 2014.

‘Bank of mum and dad’ funding, making housing market unfair

 

Mark Moz/flickr
(qlmbusinessnews.com via theguardian.com – – Tue, 28 Mar, 2017) London, Uk – –

More first-time buyers than ever are using family money, exacerbating inequality, says Social Mobility Commission

The number of first-time buyers relying on family loans from the “bank of mum and dad” to fund their deposits is exacerbating inequality and impeding social mobility, a government-backed study has warned.

The Social Mobility Commission found the percentage of first-time buyers turning to family for financial help had increased from 20% in 2010 to a historic high of 34%. The report also found just one in three (31%) 25- to 29-year-olds owned a home compared with 63% of the same age group in 1990.

“Home ownership helps unlock high levels of social mobility but it is in freefall among young families,” said the former Labour MP Alan Milburn, the chair of the commission.

“Owning a home is becoming a distant dream for millions of young people on low incomes who do not have the luxury of relying on the bank of mum and dad to give them a foot up on the housing ladder. The way the housing market is operating is exacerbating inequality and impeding social mobility.”

The report, which used data from the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University, examined a series of surveys, including the English Housing Survey – which interviewed around 13,300 households in 2013-14 – and the Labour Force Survey, which looked at homeowners by age between 1995 and 2015.

It found one in 10 first-time buyers used inherited wealth and that 12%, whether it was a first property or not, were using a “gift or loan”.

First-time buyers who receive cash or at least a loan from their parents can buy 2.6 years earlier that those who do not, and this figure rises to 4.6 years in London.

The study also found 30% of households with dependent children held assets that could be used towards a home deposit, but only around 10% of households without any formal education qualifications over two back-to-back generations felt they could help out their kids.

The report predicts that if the economy weakens, the proportion of first-time buyers being propped up by family will remain at about one third until 2025, but it will boom to 40% by 2029.

Theresa May’s government earlier this year strayed from David Cameron’s “home-owning democracy” approach to housing and announced tougher regulation on landlords.

The proportion of people living in private rented homes has doubled since 2000.

“It is welcome that the government recognises the growing problem people face in getting on the housing ladder,” said Milburn, who was a Treasury and health minister in Tony Blair’s governments.

“A major national effort is needed to expand opportunities for home ownership and will require more radical action on housing supply.”

The commission’s State of the Nation 2016 report encouraged the government to build 3m homes over the next decade and build on the green belt.

The report’s lead author, Dr Paul Sanderson, said only “better-off” young people with parents who had accumulated housing wealth were likely to consider home ownership unless there were “radical changes to the housing market”.

“It is further embedding social immobility into the housing market,” said the Anglia Ruskin senior lecturer and University of Cambridge fellow.

“Obviously it’s down to affordability, increasing housing prices and incomes staying static compared to inflation.”

Sanderson said an increase in building social housing, regulation of planning developments and a focus on the help-to-buy scheme could help turn the tide.

John Healey, the Labour party’s shadow secretary of state for housing and a former government minister, however, criticised flaws in the scheme.

“This is further evidence of an inequality of wealth and opportunity for home ownership in this country and it’s part of seven years of failure on housing under Conservative ministers,” Healey told the Guardian.

“The government has got to do more to help young first-time buyers who don’t have the bank of mum and dad behind them.

“They could start by making sure help to buy is better targeted. It’s indefensible that help to buy is helping almost 25,000 people who are not first-time buyers.

“Younger people on smaller incomes are increasingly locked out.”

By Peter J Walker

Large electronic device ban comes into force on UK airlines

 

A ban on large electronic devices in aeroplane cabins has come into effect on several airlines flying “into the UK and US”.

Citing attacks on aircraft and in airports in recent years, the US has applied the restrictions to nine carriers from eight countries: Turkey; Morocco; Jordan; Egypt; the United Arab Emirates; Saudi Arabia; Qatar; and Kuwait. The UK ban covers six nations, excluding the UAE, Morocco and Kuwait, but including Lebanon and Tunisia.

Mark Cuban Basketball Multi-Billion Dollar Enterprise

 

Bloomberg Game Changers profiles Dallas Mavericks' owner Mark Cuban. See how Cuban spun his love of basketball into a multi-billion dollar enterprise.

 

New fuel-efficient planes about to shift global aviation map

 

The global aviation map is about to shift in a way we've not seen in three decades. New fuel-efficient planes mean that we could see a lot more long-haul direct flights. Bloomberg Gadfly's David Fickling explains why that could be bad for the airlines.

Electric black cab manufacturer opens a £300m plant in Coventry

 

The black cab manufacturer London Taxi Company has opened a £300m plant for its new electric cab.

The plant in Coventry, which has created more than 1,000 jobs, will produce the electric taxis by the end of the year.

The company is owned by Chinese carmaker Geely. Chief executive Chris Gubbey told Ian King Live there may yet be more investment.

Uk follows US by imposing ban on larger electronic devices on flights

Britain has followed in US footsteps by imposing a cabin baggage ban on larger electronic devices on passenger flights from several Middle Eastern and North African countries.

Direct inbound flights from Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia are affected by the new restrictions, amid terrorism fears.

Passengers won't be allowed to bring phones, laptops or tablets over 16 cm in length, 9.3 cm in width and with a depth of over 1.5 cm into the cabin.

Malaysia Develops World’s First Digital Free Trade Zone

 

The development of the Digital Free Trade Zone would offer a conducive environment for digital companies to carry out their business, said Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Tun Razak during his opening address at the Global Transformation Forum in Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday.

UK inflation surge above 2.0 percent creates dilemma for BoE

 

Inflation in Britain surged again last month.

Consumer prices were up by a stronger-than-expected 2.3 percent thanks to by more expensive fuel and food.

That was up from the previous month's 1.8 percent and above the 2.0 percent target of the UK's central bank. It was the biggest annual increase in nearly three-and-a-half years.

Oil was pricier and the fall in the value of the pound linked to the Brexit vote has pushed up the cost of imported raw materials.

Google’s European Boss Apologised Over Extremist Content

(qlmbusinessnews.com via yourlocalguardian.co.uk – – Tue, 21 Mar, 2017) London, Uk – –

Google’s European chief has publicly apologised after online adverts for major brands appeared next to extremist material, but declined to say whether the company would begin actively seeking out such content and taking action against it.

Matt Brittin, Google’s head of Europe, the Middle East and Africa, told the Advertising Week Europe conference in London on Monday: “I want to start by saying sorry to the brands affected by this. I take the issue very seriously and I apologise in the instances where that may have happened.”

But his response was deemed inadequate by Yvette Cooper, Labour MP and home affairs select committee chair, who said the company was “failing to do enough” to weed out extremist content.

Brittin told an audience of advertising industry figures that the company would improve its ad placement system, which has seen ads attached to videos by extremists, including hate preachers and the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

The ads help fund payments to the people who post the videos, with every 1,000 clicks worth about £6.

Brittin insisted the sums involved had been “pennies not pounds” but admitted,“clearly we need to do more on that”.

He declined three times to say whether Google would start actively seeking out extremist content, rather than investigating only after users flag up inappropriate material, such as videos on YouTube, which it owns.

“Of course we’re looking again at how we improve what we’re doing on enforcement. That’s a question of resources and technology and community,” he said.

Cooper, who last week accused the company of “profiting from hatred” said she was not satisfied with Brittin’s response to the issue.

“This apology from Google doesn’t go far enough,” she said. “They need to say whether they will be paying back any of that advertising revenue and to answer our questions on what more they are doing to root out extremism or illegal activity on YouTube because they are still failing to do enough to remove illegal or hate-filled content from YouTube.

“They still don’t seem to have woken up to the seriousness and toxicity of some of the videos they are still hosting and their own responsibility to deal with that. And they still haven’t agreed to use any of their much-feted search engines to identify illegal content such as National Action videos and remove them.

“It isn’t enough for Google to respond only when their advertising revenues take a hit. They are one of the biggest and most powerful companies on the planet. They can afford to do far more, far faster to deal with illegal and hate-filled content online.”

Brittin admitted that the company “need[s] to do better” but also appeared to blame advertisers for failing to deploy tools designed to ensure their ads do not appear next to extremist content.

“What we found is that there are many controls available but they’re not always being used so we need to make sure they’re simpler and easier to use,” said Brittin.

Google executives have been summoned to the Cabinet Office later this week to explain to ministers what they plan to do about extremist content and ads attached to it on YouTube and Google’s wider network.

But a date for the meeting has yet to be arranged, according to Whitehall sources, while Brittin was unable to say what measures the company will promise to take.

“You’ll have more detail from us very soon on that. We’re working to get it right and if we need some improvement we will do,” he said.

The government and several high-profile companies have suspended adverts, or are reviewing whether to do so, after it emerged that extremists including Duke were able to profit from adverts on Google’s network.

Marks & Spencer became the latest company to pull advertising from Google on Monday, adding its name to a growing list that includes government departments, major advertising agencies and well-known companies. McDonald’s, the BBC, L’Oréal, HSBC, Royal Bank of Scotland, Lloyds, the Guardian, Audi and Channel 4 are among the firms to suspend advertising.

BT and Sky said they were reviewing their relationship with Google.

Unilever’s chief marketing officer, Keith Weed, who was speaking alongside Brittin at the Advertising Week Europe seminar, said the consumer goods company has not pulled its adverts from Google and had not yet been affected.

Brittin’s public apology comes after he was urged to do so by Rob Norman, chief digital officer at GroupM, part of the world’s largest advertising group WPP.

While Brittin admitted that Google had work to do to mend fences with advertisers, he also pointed out that it handles a huge volume of content, including 400 hours of YouTube video uploaded every minute.

By Rob Davis

Brazil Authorities Attempt to Quell Fears over Tainted Meat Scandal

 

In Brazil, authorities allege that major meat processing companies bribed officials in order to allow them to sell rotten beef and poultry. The government is now attempting to save the country's reputation as one of the world's top meat exporters. Also today, we take a look at last year's champagne sales.

Private companies cancel home care contracts with 95 Councils

 

Bournemouth Council/flickr

(qlmbusinessnews.com via yourlocalguardian.co.uk – – Mon, 20 Mar, 2017) London, Uk – –

Ninety-five councils have had home care contracts cancelled by private companies, an investigation has found.

BBC Panorama found that agencies were struggling to deliver the care required with the funding offered, forcing the companies to end their contracts.

Numerous authorities across south London have raised council tax this year in a bid to ease the social care crisis, including Kingston, Merton and Croydon.

It found that a quarter of the country's 2,500 home care providers were at risk of insolvency, and almost 70 had closed down in the last three months.

The agencies – which provide help for people living independently at home – also struggled to recruit and retain staff, Panorama reported.

One home care company – Cymorth Llaw in Bangor, Wales – was forced to hand back its contract with Conwy council because it felt unable to provide adequate care with the council's funding offer of £15 per hour.

Ken Hogg, co-director of the company, told the programme: “We didn't think we could do it for the money – it was as simple as that.”

He said the company has always paid employees above the national minimum and living wage.

But with pension contributions, National Insurance and training – among other costs such as mileage and travel time – the amount the council were paying “doesn't leave a great deal”.

BBC Panorama also found a similar issue at home care company Mears, who cancelled a contract with Liverpool City Council in July saying £13.10 per hour was not enough to cover the costs, and at least £15 an hour was needed.

Alan Long, executive director at Mears, told the programme: “That was a terrible thing to do for both service users and for care staff, we absolutely did not take that lightly, but frankly what choice did we have?

“We just cannot do the two most basic things that you need to do in home care – one, pay staff the absolutely minimum of a living wage and, two, be able to recruit people, enough people to deliver the service that Liverpool Council actually expected from us.”

The Local Government Association warned in January that the number of people who had “unmet basic needs”, such as getting washed, dressed or getting out of bed, could rise because of “continued underfunding” of social care.

It said those who got care could face shorter visits from carers.

Problems arranging social care in the community have also led to an all-time high level of delayed discharges in the NHS, with patients who are medically fit to leave hospital unable to do so.

There have been repeated calls for more money for social care, with charities, local councils and think tanks saying the gap in funding is between £1.3bn to £2bn.

In this month's Budget, Chancellor Philip Hammond announced £2 billion of extra funding for social care over the next three years, and said the system was “clearly under pressure”.

By Jonathan Mitchell