Posts Tagged ‘government’
Not content with charging the earth for a Grab Bag of Quavers and a pine forest Magic Tree, service stations seem to think they can charge what they like for petrol, too.
Prices at the pumps at your average motorway services can be 10p a litre higher than elsewhere, but that’s soon going to change, say the Government.
They want to make them advertise their prices on the road, to create competition between service stations and ‘drive’ prices down. So you will never again be stuck at the South Mimms Welcome Break with tears in your eyes and a petrol bill of £2 million pounds. It happens in France already, so it must be good, right?
Pete Williams from the RAC welcomed the proposal, which is currently being drawn up by the Downing Street Policy Unit.
‘This is welcome news for motorists and commercial drivers but we still need motorway services to be transparent and fair on all their prices. They have held the motorist to ransom for far too long – let’s hope that Number 10 encourages them to sort out their food prices and their parking charges too.’
Encouraging words for anyone who has ever had to extend their mortgage so they can buy a Costa coffee and a tuna melt panini that tastes like fish weetabix.
The survey showed 87% of small firms experienced a security breach last year, which is up 10%. For large companies, 93% had also been targeted by ne’er-do-wells online.
The Information Security Breaches Survey, commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS), found that some of these attacks had caused more than £1 million of damage.
As such, the Government wants to help and have set up a scheme with the Technology Strategy Board, which allows smaller firms to bid for up to £5,000 from a £500,000 pot to improve their cyber security by bringing in experts from outside their company. As well as this, BIS will publish guidance to help small firms make cyber security part of their everyday risk management.
Universities and Science Minister David Willetts said: “Keeping electronic information safe and secure is vital to a business’s bottom line. Companies are more at risk than ever of having their cyber security compromised, in particular small businesses, and no sector is immune from attack. But there are simple steps that can be taken to prevent the majority of incidents.”
“The package of support we are announcing today will help small businesses protect valuable assets like financial information, websites, equipment, software and intellectual property, driving growth and keeping UK businesses ahead in the global race.”
Next week: UK Government lose a laptop with small businesses private data on it.
If you’ve given a month’s deposit to a dodgy geezer in a cheap tie and never seen it again, you might be one of the thousands of tenants demanding better regulation of letting agencies.
Unscrupulous letting agents are currently at liberty to run off with people’s hard earned money and refuse to fix urgent problems. But an amendment to regulate letting agents in England will be presented in the House of Commons next week, in a move to clamp down on rogue agencies.
At the moment, complaints about letting agents to the Property Ombudsman have increased by 9% from last year to 8,000. New legislation would make it compulsory for letting agents to belong to an Ombudsman scheme so that tenant’s rights are protected.
‘At the moment anybody could set up as a letting agent. They don’t have to promise to give minimum standards to the tenants or to the landlords.” Said Labour peer Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town.
So if the bill is approved, you’ll no longer be at the mercy of fly-by-night letting agents called ‘Lets Be Honest’ with an office in their mum’s shed. Which can only be a good thing.
Ofcom have compiled a scorecard for Britain’s frankly lousy broadband speed, which conveniently misses out loads of countries in a bid to make us look better. Pretty sad really.
After the Coalition Government boasted about Britain having the fastest internet in Europe, even they’re cottoning on to the idea that we’re not going to be making any waves before their 2015 target. However, Ofcom’s report has juggled the stats in a move to give us false hope.
This all stems from former Culture Secretary Jeremy Hunt – now killing the NHS and still not being made accountable for the BSkyB debacle that he oversaw – who said that it was the government’s “ambition to have Europe’s best superfast broadband by 2015.”
And so, with this looking increasingly unlikely and, indeed, Hunt making excuses long before being promoted by Cameron, Ofcom have now put out a scorecard which compares the UK’s broadband developments with France, Germany, Italy and Spain.
Ofcom said it made sense to only compare ourselves to this big four, saying: “The factors that affect the development of broadband networks, such as geography, population size and density and legacy infrastructure, differ significantly between the 27 EU Member States. For this reason we consider it more appropriate to compare the UK’s broadband network with those in other major European economies than with those in all EU27 countries.”
While this may make some sense, the fact is, the angle being played out is that we’re the fifth best in Europe, even though Holland, Ireland, Latvia, Denmark, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden, Romania, Belgium and Austria all have faster broadband than Britain.
By siding with ‘major economies’, Britain looks to be performing well, but let us be honest here, Britons would hope that we’d be doing better than Finland, which is made entirely out of snow and goblins. Worldwide, Britain is flagging behind Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong, which means that, basically, we’ve got one of the crappest internet connections in the world.
Almost a third of families affected by George Osborne’s child benefit swipe haven’t been formally told that they’ll no longer be eligible for benefits (means-tested from next Monday), which equates to more than 1.1 million families being affected and a whole load of chaos cutting loose.
HMRC have told 784,000 families that they must either stop claiming child benefit by this weekend or pay a new tax to cover the cost of the payments, however, with so many families not being told, someone is going to need a big, expensive mop to clean up the resultant mess when people realise their benefits have been stopped AND they’ll be expected to pay something on top AND fill in self-assessment forms.
It has been estimated that there’s around eight million people who’ll have to fill in these new forms, with many of those finding the process too difficult and facing fines for late returns of their assessments.
Mike Warburton of Grant Thornton, the accountants, said: “We understood that everyone affected would receive a letter and it is a concern that people have not received the information. Many people are unaware that they will now have to complete self-assessment forms. It is disappointing.”
Barry Murphy, a tax partner at PwC, added: “The tax system seems to have grown to be overly complex. Until major reform occurs, we will have changes like this which will be complex and catch people unawares.”
All this has already been described as an “operational and reputational disaster”, with the Institute of Chartered Accountants for England and Wales adding that the new legislation is “seriously flawed in principle and in practice”. And yet, George thinks this is going to save the country £1.5 billion annually.
It won’t surprise you one bit that, as an organisation that is constantly losing files and laptops, the government have made a website that effectively offers up your details to cyber-attacks.
Hackers have found that they can exploit gaping security flaws on the government’s new jobs website, which means that, anyone who is looking for a job could well get their personal info swiped.
Channel 4 News found that there’s a load of vulnerabilities in the Jobmatch site, which allows bad-sorts access to the things you’ve uploaded in a bid to get a job. That’d be things like copies of your birth certificate and scans of your passports.
This new site came about because the old Jobcentre Plus site was breached by hackers in 2011. These flaws have been sent on to the Information Commissioner’s Office.
“The security of a claimant’s data is of the utmost importance to us and we have a number of checks in place when employers register to use the site. Sadly, there will always be a small number of cases where people seek to get around these checks,” a statement from the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP), said.
“If someone is being asked for personal information or details beyond their CV we would recommend they alert Jobcentre Plus immediately.”
David Cameron surprised MPs recently when he started wittering on about forcing energy companies to offer better or clearer tariffs, as they clearly didn’t know what he was talking about. Now, however, the team have had time to have a little chat, and have come up with a foolproof plan on how to make energy bills better for all of us. Or so they say.
The ‘simplification’ plans will mean that energy companies will only be able to offer 4 tariffs, including one fixed-term fixed rate and one variable tariff. The other two can be dependent on other factors like payment method or environmentally friendliness. The four tariffs must have a single price, but suppliers may still apply duel fuel or direct debit type discount.
But perhaps more importantly, especially for those lazy bones who never bother to switch, minister also plan to force energy suppliers to automatically transfer customers to the most suitable tariff for them, and by that, they mean the one that costs the least. Anyone would think the energy industry was nationalised…
Some quarters have welcomed the plans, suggesting it is the best way to get better deals for most people: “A decade of competition in energy supply has struggled to deliver a market that serves the interests of most energy consumers. The proliferation of energy tariffs was always irrational and confusing for what is basically a simple, homogenous product. It has tended to benefit a minority of very active and determined switchers, and neglected the majority of less engaged energy consumers who are utterly confused, “ complained Adam Scorer, Director of Policy at Consumer Focus.
“Reducing the number of tariffs for each supplier would still provide enough space for suppliers to compete, and would make it easier for more consumers to engage and exercise informed choice. It is a sensible move and suppliers could do it now,” he added.
Energy Secretary Ed Davey told BBC News he couldn’t guarantee all customers would see their bills cut, but the majority of people would benefit and it would be “easier” to get lower bills. The government wants customers placed on the cheapest available price by summer 2014 at the latest.
He also pooh-poohed suggestions that the plans would mean fewer people would look to switch: “Because there will be fewer tariffs and they will be simpler, it will make it a lot easier for people to compare and will actually help competition.”
But what many people are concerned about is whether the very-prescriptive plans laid down by the Government will actually cause prices to rise overall, as lack of competition hits the best deals.
“Competition in the energy market remains vitally important if we are to try and keep prices down. While the intention from the reported Government plans seems to be to help those many people who have never switched to get a cheaper deal, the devil will be in the detail,” said Clare Francis from Moneysupermarket.com.
“There’s a danger that forcing energy companies to offer everyone their ‘best’ tariff could mean that they simply remove the best, or more ‘niche’ tariffs from the market, stifling competition. There could be little incentive for energy companies to try and shake up their offerings to attract new customers or to retain existing customers, which would be an outcome we imagine the Government is not attempting to achieve.”
So what do you think? Should we all be squeezed into a four-sizes-fit-all tariff to benefit those who can’t be bothered? Or is Dave just a pesky meddler?
The government has announced that the West Coast main line deal, which was won by FirstGroup back in August, is to be scrapped, with the bidding process set to start all over again. Rotten news for FirstGroup, but great news for Virgin Trains, which lost out in the process.
It is being reported that civil servants have found significant mistakes in the way that the risks for each bid were calculated and that the whole thing will have to be re-run. Virgin challenged the original decision in court and Sir Richard Branson appeared on TV a few times live from his hot, posh island, gaining the sympathy of almost nobody.
EDIT: It has been revealed that the cost to the taxpayer for cleaning up this cock-up will be £40 million. Nice.
There’s a petition that is trying to block online porn for everyone and today is your last chance to stop it. The government are calling it ‘parental internet controls’, but we all know what they really mean.
MP Claire Perry has headed to Downing Street to hand in a petition with a 100,000+ names on it, all wanting all adult material blocked online. It was created by a group called SafetyNet and they’ve been citing some really dodgy stuff to try and stop this supposed menace.
The petition cites cod-statistics from Psychologies magazine, saying “the single largest group of internet pornography consumers is children aged 12-17″, which is clearly horseshit. One of the campaigners for this default block has praised the way China conduct their internet business, which shows you that these people are obviously terrific berks.
Of course, these blocks don’t ever work properly (look at TalkTalk’s HomeSafe system). If you think ‘if these blocks don’t work, then why worry?’, it is worth pointing about that TalkTalk spent £20million on their filtering system. The government would spend much, much more than that if they implement it and that’s money coming straight out of your pay packet.
Go and tell the government they’re arseholes and fill out the form, found here. No-one really wants that shower to decide what material is suitable for everyone to view.
The government, which lest we forget is full of grade one WEIRDOS like Philip Hammond and Theresa May, is not satisfied with weakening our booze and then charging us more for it – now the wretched bastards are tampering with our food as well.
A whopping 17 food and drink companies have pledged to cut calories in their delicious goods as part of the war on obesity or something. Additionally, Cadbury’s have turned themselves into a laughing stock by agreeing to add resealable packaging on many of their chocolate bars – as if THAT’S going to stop us.
Under the new scheme, every chocolate bar made by Mars will have a cap of 250 calories, while the UK arm of Coca Cola says it will introduce a 30% reduction in some of its soft drinks by 2014. Seriously, what is going to be the point of living?
Sneering tossprick health boss Andrew Lansley reckons that three quarters of the food retail sector will be signing up to his joyless scheme. We demand to know the names of the companies that are giving it a swerve so that we can pledge our allegiance to their wares.
Great. Just when we need it the most, booze is about to get weaker. The ‘drinks industry’ has pledged to remove a billion units of alcohol from a range of drinks in a pledge to commit to lower-strength products. 34 leading wine companies are involved in the move, while Heineken have joined in and are planning to reduce the booze in some of their beers. Scum, all of them.
Mind you, the fact that there’s an increased demand for lower and non-alcoholic drinks from consumers has probably made the decision to join forces with the government on this one.
Additionally, the Home Secretary, Theresa May has announced that minimum pricing for alcohol will be introduced, with a minimum of 40p per unit of alcohol being mooted. The move would also see the end of multi-buy discount deals in the supermarkets and probably scupper happy hours in pubs and bars.
It is suggested that with a billion units removed from our booze, in a decade’s time there will be almost 1,000 fewer alcohol related deaths each year, saving the new-style NHS a metric fuckton of cash.