TUC finds ‘market volatility’ could cost pension savers

A study commissioned by the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has revealed that volatility in the pensions market could cause those saving for retirement to lose up to £5,000 in their annual pension payments.

The Pensions Policy Institute (PPI) analysed historic investment returns on behalf of the TUC, and found that the size of an individual’s pension pot may vary by up to 40%.

As a result, a man who has been in a defined contribution pension scheme for 40 years, who earns a median wage, could earn an annual income of £16,804 if he were to retire in 2017. In 2000, the same worker would have been able to retire on an annual income of £27,871.

However, the research showed that, whilst the impact of investment returns on women’s pension savings is similar to that of men’s, women are more likely to be reliant on the state pension.

Image result for pensions uk 2017Commenting on the matter, Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC, said: ‘Someone who has saved all their working life should not have to play roulette with their pension fund. But if their retirement lands on a bad year, market volatility could leave them with a much poorer standard of living for the rest of their life.

‘Every saver should be enrolled into a well-governed scheme that is able to cushion members from the worst markets can throw at them.’


Chancellor ‘may have to abandon deficit target’ in upcoming Budget, IFS states

In a new report, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) has stated that Chancellor Philip Hammond may be required to abandon his target for eliminating the deficit if he is to increase spending on public services.

The government has stated its intention to move public finances into surplus by the mid-2020’s, with the Treasury reaffirming its commitment to reducing the deficit ‘while also investing in our public services’.

Image result for deficit targetAccording to the IFS, productivity growth is likely to be cut – meaning that the deficit could increase significantly, potentially rising to £36 billion by 2021/22.

In the report, the Institute said that it would be difficult to see how Mr Hammond could stick to his deficit reduction targets and also respond to the ‘growing demands for spending’.

Commenting on the matter, Mr Hammond recently said: ‘We’ve already moved the target for balancing the books out from 2020 to 2025, but continuing to drive down the deficit in a measured and sensible way over a period of years… has to be the right way to go.’

Carl Emmerson, Deputy Director of the IFS, stated: ‘Public sector workers, the NHS, the prison service, schools and working-age benefit recipients, among others, would like more money. Even if Mr Hammond does find some, unless it did represent a very big change of direction, it won’t mean ‘the end of austerity’.

‘Given all the current pressures and uncertainties – and the policy action that these might require – it is perhaps time to admit that a firm commitment to running a budget surplus from the mid-2020s onwards is no longer sensible.’

The Chancellor will deliver the Autumn Budget on Wednesday 22 November.

Gender pay gap ‘narrows to record low’, data suggests

Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that the gender pay gap for full-time employees has ‘fallen to its lowest level’ since records began.

Image result for gender pay gapAccording to the latest figures, the gender pay gap for such workers fell from 9.4% in 2016 to 9.1% in 2017.

This constitutes the lowest pay gap since records began in 1997, when it stood at 17.4%.

However, the gender pay gap for the entire UK workforce currently stands at 18.4%, up from 18.2% in 2016.

Commenting on the issue, Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the Trades Union Congress (TUC), said: ‘The full-time gender pay gap has inched a bit smaller. But there is still a chasm between men and women’s earnings.

‘At this rate, it’ll take decades for women to get paid the same as men.

‘The government needs to crank up the pressure on employers. Companies shouldn’t just be made to publish their gender pay gaps. They should be forced to explain how they’ll close them.’

From 6 April 2017, businesses with more than 250 employees have been required by law to begin calculating their gender pay gap. Businesses and charities must publish their gender pay gap data on their website by 4 April each year, and public sector organisations must publish their pay gap by 30 March every year.

Companies with fewer than 250 employees can opt to publish their gender pay gap data voluntarily, but they are not obliged to do so.

Moderate growth in UK economy sparks interest rate rise concerns

Data published by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) has revealed that the UK economy grew at a faster pace than expected in the three months to September – sparking concerns over a potentially imminent rise in interest rates.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the three months to September grew by 0.4%, up from 0.3% in the previous quarter – constituting a bigger rise than many economists had anticipated.

Experts have stated that the growth in GDP serves as the ‘go ahead’ for an interest rates rise. The Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) is due to decide whether interest rates will rise when it meets next week.

A decision to raise interest rates will mark the first rise in just over a decade.

Responding to the news, Suren Thiru, Head of Economics at the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC), commented: ‘With the latest GDP data confirming that the UK economy is still in a challenging period, these figures are likely to weigh on whether the MPC will raise interest rates next month.

‘We would urge the MPC to proceed with caution on raising rates, as tightening monetary policy amid the current economic and political uncertainty could weaken growth.’

PAC urges HMRC to take action on online VAT fraud

In a new report, the Public Accounts Committee (PAC) has urged HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC) to take steps to combat online VAT fraud in the UK.

Image result for vat fraudIn its report, the Committee discovered that sellers based outside of the EU are neglecting to charge VAT, and therefore are able to undercut the prices set by UK businesses ‘by up to 20%’. It found that online VAT fraud committed by overseas sellers is costing UK businesses and taxpayers over £1 billion each year.

Within the report, the PAC criticised HMRC for being ‘slow to respond to the growing risk of VAT fraud by online sellers’.

It has outlined a series of steps that HMRC could take to help combat online VAT fraud, including producing an updated estimate on the scale and impact of the online VAT fraud ‘tax gap’, speeding up the introduction of new VAT measures and setting short and long-term targets for reducing the amount of VAT lost through non-compliant sales.

Commenting on the matter, Meg Hillier, Chair of the PAC, said: ‘HMRC needs to be far tougher in protecting the interests of British businesses and taxpayers. As a priority, it must inject more urgency into enforcement action. But it should also push the case for further new powers.’

In response, a spokesperson for HMRC stated: ‘We introduced tough new rules last year allowing us to hold online marketplaces liable for unpaid VAT by overseas sellers and since then we have seen a tenfold rise in the number of sellers registering for VAT.’

Sportsaid’s Bucks Sporting Lunch Club awards its first Para Dressage rider

Ray Wilkins MBE has presented Mari Durward-Akhurst, [23], from Amersham in Buckinghamshire, with a cheque for £1,000 on behalf of SportsAid’s Bucks Sporting Lunch Club, which was held on Friday 20 October 2017 at Dorney Lake. Created in 2011, the network is a way for local individuals, businesses and trusts to raise money to help with training, travel or equipment costs for young, talented athletes in Buckinghamshire.

Mari award

Mari has cerebral palsy with increased ataxia which affects all four limbs. As a result of this, her coordination, balance and muscle tone are all affected. Mari explains:

“I am weaker down my left side and sadly over the last couple of years my condition has deteriorated and I now use a walking stick all the time and a wheelchair or scooter.”

However, Mari’s commitment and dedication to her training programme at Windmill Farm in Chalfont St Giles, impressed her national governing body and SportsAid when selecting potential grant recipients:

‘I ride for 20 minutes maximum as that is all my body can cope with. But my mum and trainer ride the horses for me so they are worked on a regular basis. I have two lessons a week with my trainer Rob Waine, go to the gym and carry out my exercise programme six times a week. It’s quite intense.’

Mari’s training seems to be paying off, as she is already a Grade 1 Gold National Champion after competing with her horse Sky O’Hara, in September 2017. She also was second behind a triple Paralympic gold medalist at Hartpury 3* International in July this year and is 19th in the world rankings for her grade.

The award money will cover her entry to the British Dressage Nationals and the cost of her trainer at competitions. Mari has ambitions to compete at the Tokyo 2020 Paralympics and to win a gold medal and looks to Helen Kearney, para rider for Ireland, as her inspiration. Her family are also fully behind her as Mari adds:

“My family, my mum and dad have always been around to help and support me. My sister, even though she lives across the other side of the world, is a true inspiration to me. But my mum is my greatest influence, as she has been through so much but never stops fighting. We are one very determined family.”

Simon Dodd, Partner at Nunn Hayward and sponsor of Bucks Sporting Lunch Club, said:

“Mari’s story is very inspiring. Her determination to succeed and her achievements impressed all of us. She is a very deserving winner. I’m delighted that the Bucks Sporting Lunch Club award could hopefully take her one step closer to Tokyo 2020.”

Mari received her award from Ray Wilkins MBE, Sky Sports pundit, former England footballer, and former manager at QPR and Fulham FC, who went on to win the Premiership when assistant manager at Chelsea FC.

‘Immediate action’ required to stop business rates increases, BCC warns government

In its Autumn Budget submission, the British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) has warned the Chancellor that ‘immediate action’ is required to ensure that UK businesses aren’t hit with further business rates increases.

Image result for british chambers of commerce brexitThe BCC has urged the government to abandon the annual uprating of business rates for the next two years. It also called for the government to exclude plant and machinery from business rates valuations.

Echoing the call made by the Institute of Directors (IoD), the BCC urged the government to temporarily increase the Annual Investment Allowance (AIA) from its current rate of £200,000 per annum to £1 million, in order to ‘incentivise business investment during the Brexit process’.

In addition, the business group called for the government to refrain from imposing ‘more input taxes or other significant costs’ on firms, and urged the Chancellor to commit to ensuring adequate mobile coverage across the UK by 2020.

Commenting on the wishlist, Dr Adam Marshall, Director General of the BCC, said: ‘At a critical moment for the UK economy, the Chancellor must be bold – and deliver a big Budget that prioritises economic confidence and investment.

‘The best possible Brexit deal won’t be worth the paper it’s written on if conditions for growth aren’t right here at home. The Chancellor has a unique chance to move the dial on growth and productivity now, leaving the UK in a position to succeed over the long-term.

‘Action to slash the upfront costs faced by business, to incentivise investment and to improve mobile coverage and infrastructure would lead to a real boost to productivity, wages and trade.’

The Chancellor will deliver the Autumn Budget on Wednesday 22 November. Make sure you keep an eye on our website for coverage of the key announcements.