Press body given £900,000 to do nothing

The Press Recognition Panel has been given £900,000 in public funding despite having no work to do, it was revealed in January 2015. The body was set up in October 2013 after agreement was reached by the three largest political parties. Its function is to approve press regulators and to ensure compliance with its royal […]

Health and care issues

In two weeks over Christmas 2014, 24,589 people waited between 4 and 12 hours on a trolley in hospital before getting a bed. Accident and emergency saw 77% of patients within four hours against a target of 95%. Waiting times for NHS operations are at an 11-year high, with 3 million waiting. More than 12 […]

Over half of pensions will be restricted

Only 45% of the 3.5 million workers due to retire between 2016 and 2020 will receive the full state pension of about £150 a week to be introduced in 2016. The figure was obtained by the investment business Hargreaves Lansdowne under a Freedom of Information request. About a third of those who retire will receive […]

Record low mortgage rates

Mortgage rates reached a record low at the end of 2014, with an average rate of 2.08%. This is the lowest rate since records began in 1995. Rates had started to creep up earlier in 2014 on the expectation that the bank interest rate would increase. When it did not, mortgage rates fell back. Interest […]

Police on jury does not prejudice fair trial

The presence of serving or retired police officers on a jury does not prejudice a fair trial, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled. Peter Charles Armstrong was convicted of murder in 2008. The jury included one serving police officer and one retired police officer. Both jurors declared their police status at the start of […]

Missing lunch adds 19 days

British workers work an extra 19 days a year for nothing by not talking their full lunch break, according to a survey by Leerdammer, the cheese maker. The average “lunch hour” is actually 26 minutes and 28 seconds. Over a year that shortfall equals an extra 133 working hours or 19 working days. The commonest […]

Milk is cheaper than water

Milk is cheaper than water in many supermarkets as a result of a price war that has seen milk sold for as little as 22p per pint. The record low price was achieved by Asda selling four pints for 89p, but most other supermarkets were charging no more than £1 for four pints, less than […]

Transsexuals banned from driving in Russia

Transsexuals are banned from driving in Russia on the grounds that cross-dressing and assexuality are road hazards. Also banned are any who suffer from “mental disorders”, which includes voyeurs, fetishists, exhibitionists, pyromaniacs and gambling addicts.

Cash dispense record

Christmas Eve was the busiest day of 2014 for cash dispensers. On that day, £662m was withdrawn with an average withdrawal of £82. The figure is 22% higher than withdrawals on Christmas Eve 2013.

Large charities rely on state funding

Almost a quarter of the funding of the country’s 50 largest charities comes from public funds, according to a report published in January 2015. The charities received £3.1 bn in funding from public bodies. While many charities are open about their public funding, those who are not include Mencap, Action for Children, and Leonard Cheshire. […]

Conservatives propose new strike laws

The Conservative party would require 40% of those eligible to vote for strike action to do so among certain ket service workers, it was announced on 9 January 2015. Those affected include teachers, nurses, firemen and transport staff. A separate earlier proposal would require a turnout of at least 50% for any strike ballot. The […]

Conservative tax cuts from “spare cash”

The Conservative party said that it would deliver £7bn in tax cuts from the £23bn “spare cash” the government will have in 2020 when the annual deficit is turned into a surplus. The government has already failed to meet its target to wipe out the deficit by 2015. The deficit is the amount by which […]

Two cards failed on 7 January 2015

Two credit cards failed on 7 January 2015 in unrelated incidents. NatWest customers were unable to use their cards from lunchtime until early evening. Sainsbury found that store check-outs were refusing to accept their cards leading to angry scenes in supermarkets and rude messages on Twitter. There are 1.6 million people with Sainsbury cards.

Bank of England almost nationalised in 1917

The Bank of England was almost nationalised in 1917 because of an argument with the government about American loans taken out to fund the first world war. This has recently been revealed in papers almost 100 years old and released on 7 January 2015. In 1917, Lord Cunliffe, the governor of the Bank, and Andrew Bonar […]

Oil prices 50% lower in 12 months

Oil prices in January were around $50 a barrel, about half of what they were a year earlier and the lowest since 2008. On 6 January 2015, the Chancellor of the Exchequer ordered an enquiry into whether the oil prices have properly reflected this fall in prices. Of a typical price of £1.08 for a […]

£21 million tax relief for Ronin 47

The Hollywood flop Ronin 47 cost £146 million to make, of which £21 million came from the generous UK tax credit for British films. The other £125m was paid by Universal Studios. British films qualify for 25% tax relief for the first £20m and 20% for the balance. A film is British if 10% of […]

Poor families to be hit by council tax

Two million poor families will be hit by higher council tax bills from April 2015 because of a funding shortfall, according to the Local Government Association. The government has cut funding that allows councils to give up to 100% discounts in council tax to the poorest households. Since council tax benefit was abolished two years […]

Illegal immigrant working in Commons

An illegal immigrant with a forged passport was found working in the House of Commons. The unnamed woman was arrested on 2 January 2015. She is believed to come from Sierra Leone and to have worked in the catering department for two months.  She was supplied by an external agency. Her status as a casual […]

Lib Dems would cap pension tax relief

The Liberal Democrat party has said it would cap tax relief for pensions, saving £500m a year. It would also increase dividend tax rates for those earning more than £150,000 a year, bringing in another £400m a year and abolish the Conservatives “employed shareholder” scheme to save another £100m a year. The additional £1bn would […]

London mansion tax to pay for Scottish nurses

The Labour party said that its proposed mansion tax would pay for 1,000 extra nurses in Scotland. As the tax will be payable almost exclusively in London, this had led to allegations that London is to be taxed to fund the increasingly independent Scotland. The mansion tax would be levied on homes worth more than […]

CBI received £5.4m public funding

The CBI has received £5.4m in funding from publicly funded bodies such as universitis, NHS Trusts and the BBC. Funds were received from 122 taxpayer-funded bodies between 2009 and 2014, according to the body Business for Britain which challenged CBI’s right to speak for business management. Eighty-seven bodies paid for £3.9m for membership contributions. Others […]

Israel holds £80m in Palestine taxes

Israel is reported to be holding £80m in taxes it has collected on behalf of the Palestinian Authority, allegedly as punishment for Palestine applying to join the International Criminal Court. Israel collects about £650m a year in customs duties and other taxes for the Palestinian authorities under agreements made in the 1990s. These amounts represent two-thirds […]

Universities conceal how they spend fees

Universities are unwilling to say how they spend the £9,000 a year fees, according to the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI). HEPI says that the average cost of an undergraduate course was £7,694, which leaves £1,306 unexplained. Oxford and Cambridge put their costs at £16,000 a year but also provide no breakdown.

Late settlement is not a bad debt

A company could issue a late credit note and claim back VAT when it settled an old dispute. A trade mark attorney issued £871,000 worth of invoices to a client between 2005 and 2010. The client disputed the invoices and did not pay them. In November 2012, an agreement was reached where the client paid […]