News Article | April 17, 2017
Himanshu was a professor at RPI in Troy, NY, before he got into the IT industry. He has a PhD from the University of Rhode Island and an undergraduate degree in Mechanical Engineering from Indian Institute of Technology, Kanpur. In his personal life, Himanshu loves photography, movies, travel and outdoor life. He has been involved in volunteering and charitable activities for many years, in both India and the Dallas area. Himanshu and his family participate in Charity Eye Clinic & Medical Clinic that provides eye screening for kids, as well as medical services for those in need. He is a welcome member of the Blue Jay family. To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/blue-jay-announces-himanshu-nigam-as-technical-project-manager-300440217.html
News Article | April 27, 2017
Theresa May is considering replacing the “triple lock”, which guarantees a minimum increase in the state pension each year, with a less generous “double lock” commitment in the Conservative party’s general election manifesto, and spending some of the money saved on social care. Introduced in 2011 by the coalition government, the triple lock guarantees that the basic state pension will rise by a minimum of either 2.5%, the rate of inflation or average earnings growth, whichever is largest. Before 2011, the state pension rose in line with the retail prices index (RPI) measure of inflation, which was consistently lower than annual rises in earnings or 2.5%. The last few years – in which earnings growth has been extremely weak – have seen triple lock indexation boost the value of the state pension relative to both average earnings and prices. The Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said in its recent assessment: “Between April 2010 and April 2016 the value of the state pension has been increased by 22.2%, compared to growth in earnings of 7.6% and growth in prices of 12.3% over the same period.” That means pensioners have seen their incomes rise at almost double the pace of the average worker. The government actuary’s department calculates that this dramatic improvement has pushed the value of the basic state pension up to its highest share of average earnings since April 1988. Compared with an uprating in line with earnings, the increased benefit to pensioners cost an extra £6bn a year in 2015–16. It cost about £4bn relative to indexation to the consumer prices index (CPI) measure of inflation, over the period since April 2011. Most benefits are linked to CPI these days, which is estimated to be about 0.5% lower each year on average than RPI. In the run-up to the 2015 election, the Conservatives pledged to continue the coalition triple lock policy until 2020. But chancellor Philip Hammond and prime minister Theresa May are known to believe the rising cost means the Tory manifesto should revise the pledge to a double lock on the state pension that links increases to rises in earnings or inflation. Forecasting rises in earnings and inflation from 2017 to 2060 is a tricky business. The Office for Budget Responsibility has a go in its regular reports on the sustainability of the government’s finances. Without the triple lock it says spending is projected to increase by 1.1% of national income between 2020–21 and 2060–61 (from 5% to 6%). This is equivalent to £21bn in today’s terms. The OBR projections show a rise by 1.8% of national income over the same period (from 5% to 6.8%), which is equivalent to £35bn in today’s terms, or some £15bn more than under earnings indexation. At the moment the government plans to make people born after March 1961 wait until they are 67 before they qualify for the state pension age and those born after March 1977 retire at 68. A report by the former CBI boss, John Cridland, commissioned by the government argues that increasing life expectancy means everyone needs to work for longer. Ministers were considering his proposals for raising the state pension age to 69 between 2037 and 2039 (compared with 2048 under current plans) and to 70 by as early as 2057, affecting anyone born after 1987. Mark Pearson, deputy director of employment, labour and social affairs with the OECD, the Paris-based thinktank, told the Financial Times the UK should means test the basic state pension, which remains a universal benefit. “Giving less [pension] to the people at the top would free up resources to increase general benefits,” he said. Another proposal would be to tax pensioners based on income tax thresholds specially designed for people of pensionable age. This would allow all pensioners to benefit from state pension rises, but reduce the rapidly escalating inequality among the over-65s who have among the highest disposable incomes of all working people and yet fall under a system of income tax thresholds designed for working households.
News Article | May 6, 2017
Overnight, Nationwide building society has made hundreds, and possibly thousands, of new-build flats and houses almost unsaleable – and they should be roundly applauded for doing so. In a surprise intervention into the scandal of leasehold flats and houses sold with spiralling ground rents, the society said that from this Thursday it will stop lending against any new-build leasehold flat or house where the ground rent is more than 0.1% of the value of the property. It will also refuse loans on new flats with lease lengths of less than 125 years or new houses with less than 250 years. Developers will now be forced, if other lenders adopt the same policy, to slash the absurd ground rents or find that they simply can’t get any buyers. Take, for example, Berkeley’s 60-acre development south of Reading called Kennet Island. Prices for the remaining leasehold flats start at £249,950, but when we rang the sales office it told us the ground rent was £350 and would increase with RPI. That’s more than 0.1% of the value of the property – which means buyers won’t now qualify for a Nationwide mortgage. Either Berkeley cuts the ground rent or finds that buyers will melt away, unable to find a loan. Coming so soon after Taylor Wimpey said it had set aside £130m to compensate buyers caught in the ground rent trap, it’s another small victory in the battle against leasehold abuse. Robert Stevens of Nationwide said: “As a mutual building society that looks to protect its members, we have decided to make changes to the way we value new-build properties on a leasehold basis. We are doing this to address the practice of using leasehold tenure where this is unnecessary, particularly for new-build houses, and to ensure that onerous leasehold terms, including ground rents, are properly considered and controlled in order to safeguard our mortgage members. “Nationwide is taking a proactive, leading position on this issue to address a significant risk facing our members and to challenge what we believe to be poor practice in the new-build market.” The society is one of the biggest lenders in the UK, and hopefully this will now set a benchmark for other providers to follow. Remember, we are not talking about service charges here. When leaseholders pay a service charge, at least they get something in return – such as the maintenance of the common parts of the building. When leaseholders pay a ground rent they receive absolutely nothing in return. It is little more than a medieval tax and should have been outlawed decades if not centuries ago. An ugly industry has built up among financiers who snap up leaseholds with ground rents, because in an era of a 0.25% base rate a stream of income guaranteed to go up by RPI – or double every 10 years in some cases – is an extremely valuable commodity. The big developers reassure unsuspecting young buyers that the 999-year lease is “almost the same as freehold”, but then they sell it on, typically for 15-20 times the ground rent. It’s a lovely little earner for the developers but spells misery for the flat dwellers. It’s great that Nationwide has set a new benchmark, but we need to go further. There is no reason why a ground rent should be any more than a peppercorn – say £5 a year. That would kill off this grubby trade overnight. Developers who trapped buyers in ground rents that double every 10 years should be forced to buy them out in the way that Taylor Wimpey has agreed to compensate its buyers. Amazingly, giant builders such as Persimmon are still knocking out new-build estates where houses are being sold as leasehold, for which there can be no justification. Meanwhile, apartments should only be sold on a commonhold, not leasehold, basis. The legal structure is already in place – it just needs political will to force it on the developers.
News Article | May 16, 2017
The report has a global sweep. From ongoing visits, it explains how, recognising the distaste of the Japanese motor industry for highly toxic electrolytes, Nippon Chemical in Japan jumped from nowhere to number two in supercapacitors in the world by making supercapacitors for cars that had benign electrolytes. "Supercapacitor Materials 2017-2027" expresses the view that, partly because its supercapacitor suppliers have become more capable, China has recently reversed its policy on traditional hybrid vehicles, declaring that in 2030, 30% of cars made would be hybrids that do not plug in - candidates for supercapacitors. With GM now adopting them, supercapacitors are rapidly taking market share of stop-start systems for conventional vehicles. "Supercapacitor Materials 2017-2027" finds that electrolytes with totally new chemistry are pairing well with new exohedral active electrodes. Hybrid capacitors are benefitting from totally new electrolyte-electrode pairings in the laboratory at least. Are the old rules of extremely hydrophobic assembly following complex high temperature processes really necessary for best performance? Everything is being questioned now. 1. EXECUTIVE SUMMARY AND CONCLUSIONS 1.1. Comparison with batteries 1.2. Comparison with electrolytic capacitors 1.3. Focus on functional materials 1.4. Options: operating principles 1.5. What needs improving? 1.6. Construction and cost structure 1.7. Choices of material: important parameters to improve 1.8. Progress with electrode materials 1.9. Electrolytes 1.10. Supercabatteries 1.11. Graphene goes well with the new electrolytes 1.12. Materials maturity and profit 1.13. Market forecast 2017-2027 1.14. Hemp pseudo graphene? 1.15. Supercapacitors on the smaller scale 1.16. Supercapacitor materials news 2. INTRODUCTION 2.1. Where supercapacitors fit in 2.2. Supercapacitors and supercabattery basics 2.3. Supercapacitors and alternatives compared 2.4. Fundamentals 2.5. Laminar biodegradable option 2.6. Structural supercapacitors 2.7. Electrolyte improvements ahead 2.8. Equivalent circuits and limitations 2.9. Supercapacitor sales have a new driver: safety 2.10. Disruptive supercapacitors now taken more seriously 2.11. Change of leadership of the global value market? 2.12. Battery and fuel cell management with supercapacitors 2.13. Graphene vs other carbon forms in supercapacitors 2.14. Environmentally friendlier and safer materials 2.15. Printing supercapacitors 2.16. New manufacturing sites in Europe 2.17. Modelling insights 5. ELECTRODE MATERIALS AND OTHERS 5.1. Introduction 5.2. Electrodes and other materials compared by company 5.3. Materials optimisation 5.4. Progress with electrode materials 5.5. Graphene 5.6. Higher voltage electrolytes 5.7. Aqueous electrolytes become attractive 5.8. Organic ionic electrolytes 5.9. Acetonitrile concern 5.10. Supercabattery improvement 6. COMPANY PROFILES 6.1. 2D Carbon Graphene Material Co., Ltd 6.2. Abalonyx, Norway 6.3. Airbus, France 6.4. Aixtron, Germany 6.5. AMO GmbH, Germany 6.6. Asbury Carbon, USA 6.7. AZ Electronics, Luxembourg 6.8. BASF, Germany 6.9. Cambridge Graphene Centre, UK 6.10. Cambridge Graphene Platform, UK 6.11. Carben Semicon Ltd, Russia 6.12. Carbon Solutions, Inc., USA 6.13. Catalyx Nanotech Inc. (CNI), USA 6.14. CRANN, Ireland 6.15. Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI), USA 6.16. Grafoid, Canada 6.17. GRAnPH Nanotech, Spain 6.18. Graphene Devices, USA 6.19. Graphene NanoChem, UK 6.20. Graphensic AB, Sweden 6.21. Harbin Mulan Foreign Economic and Trade Company, China 6.22. HDPlas, USA 6.23. Head, Austria 6.24. HRL Laboratories, USA 6.25. IBM, USA 6.26. iTrix, Japan 6.27. JiangSu GeRui Graphene Venture Capital Co., Ltd. 6.28. Jinan Moxi New Material Technology Co., Ltd 6.29. JSR Micro, Inc. / JM Energy Corp. 6.30. Lockheed Martin, USA 6.31. Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), USA 6.32. Max Planck Institute for Solid State Research, Germany 6.33. Momentive, USA 6.34. Nanjing JCNANO Tech Co., LTD 6.35. Nanjing XFNANO Materials Tech Co.,Ltd 6.36. Nanostructured & Amorphous Materials, Inc., USA 6.36.1. Nippon ChemiCon/ United ChemiCon Japan 6.37. Nokia, Finland 6.38. Pennsylvania State University, USA 6.39. Power Booster, China 6.40. Quantum Materials Corp, India 6.41. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI), USA 6.42. Rice University, USA 6.43. Rutgers - The State University of New Jersey, USA 6.44. Samsung Electronics, Korea 6.45. Samsung Techwin, Korea 6.46. SolanPV, USA 6.47. Spirit Aerosystems, USA 6.48. Sungkyunkwan University Advanced Institute of Nano Technology (SAINT), Korea 6.48.1. Taiyo Yuden 6.49. Texas Instruments, USA 6.50. Thales, France 6.51. The Sixth Element 6.52. University of California Los Angeles, (UCLA), USA 6.53. University of Manchester, UK 6.54. University of Princeton, USA 6.55. University of Southern California (USC), USA 6.56. University of Surrey UK 6.57. University of Texas at Austin, USA 6.58. University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA For more information about this report visit http://www.researchandmarkets.com/research/wx5zdv/supercapacitor To view the original version on PR Newswire, visit:http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/global-supercapacitor-materials-market-2017-2027-market-will-triple-over-the-coming-decade--research-and-markets-300458317.html
News Article | May 16, 2017
The rising cost of electricity contributed to inflation’s rise to 2.7% in April, its highest level in three and a half years. Increases in the cost of clothing, car tax and air fares were also blamed by the Office for National Statistics for the rise in consumer price inflation (CPI) that exceeded City forecasts of 2.6%, and soared above the previous month’s figure of 2.3%. With wages increasing by just 1.9%, opposition parties and the TUC said the new inflation figure highlighted the growing pressure on living standards and consumer spending. The economy has grown over the last two years in response to a surge in consumer spending, fuelled largely by an increase in credit. But the fall in the value of sterling following the Brexit vote has pushed up the prices of imports, especially of food and clothing. The Bank of England predicted last week that inflation would peak at 2.7% in the summer. However, this forecast looks like it will need to be revised, especially after the ONS said producer output price inflation was above 3%, indicating that further rises in inflation could be expected. Liberal Democrat shadow business secretary Susan Kramer said: “These worrying levels of inflation show the Brexit squeeze is hitting shopping baskets across the country.” The TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, said the government needed to protect workers from a slump in real wages. “Working people are still £20 a week worse off, on average, than they were before the crash. That’s why living standards must be a key battleground at this election,” she said. “All the parties need to explain how they’ll create better-paid jobs, especially in the parts of the UK that need them most.” City economists were divided over the path of inflation over the next year, with some expecting a modest and brief rise above 3% while others said it would be more sustained. Alan Clarke, an economist at Scotia Bank, said he expected further electricity and gas price rises and that an acceleration in food price rises would push CPI inflation to 3.25% in the autumn. “We remain convinced that the market is underestimating the further upside for inflation from here,” he said. Clarke argued that the retail prices index (RPI), which includes some housing costs, was already at 3.5% and would rise to 4.25% before the end of the year, putting extreme pressure on consumers to cut back spending on non-essential items. The National Institute for Economic & Social Research (NIESR) forecast last week that British workers will see their disposable incomes shrinking this year as a result of rising inflation that will peak at 3.4%, while average wage rises are capped at only 2.7%. Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said rising inflation would put a further squeeze on real incomes and force Threadneedle Street to delay any move to raise interest rates. “The Bank of England will most likely sit tight on interest rates through 2017 and 2018 – and very possibly well beyond. “We suspect it will end up remaining tolerant on the inflation overshoot given likely limited UK growth and the prolonged, highly uncertain outlook that the UK economy will face as the government negotiates the exit from the EU,” he said. But Scott Bowman, UK economist at Capital Economics, was more optimistic that inflation would be held in check. He said many of the elements pushing up inflation were one-off factors and their effect would wane over the coming months. “The sharp rise was mainly due to factors that, while they won’t be reversed, shouldn’t be repeated. Indeed, a large part of the rise in inflation reflected air fares reversing the previous month’s fall as a result of Easter shifting from March last year to April this year. “What’s more, vehicle excise duty rates rose this April and tobacco and alcohol duty increased by more this year than they did last year,” he said.
News Article | September 24, 2013
The boss of Britain's biggest airline has accused Heathrow of ripping off passengers and employing too many overpaid staff, calling for the airport's chief executive to be replaced. Willie Walsh, chief executive of British Airways' parent company IAG, said the airport was planning to raise prices by £600m over five years while cutting spending on facilities. In a strident denunciation of the London airport's "abusive monopoly", Walsh said that Heathrow's boss, Colin Matthews, had been "pathetic" in trying to make a political argument linking higher airport charges to Britain's need for more overseas investment. With the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) scheduled to rule on the fees that Heathrow can charge airlines, Walsh warned the regulator not to be "hoodwinked" again, and to correct its mistakes of the recent past which Walsh said involved Heathrow being "grossly over-rewarded". Walsh said Heathrow's management seemed "incapable of running their business efficiently within a routine cost-control environment". He added: "What we see is an airport that has too many people; those people are paid too much." The CAA is due on October 3 to set fees that the airport can charge from 2014. It has proposed raising charges below inflation, at RPI -1.3%, over the next five years – a level some way below Heathrow's demands. Airlines led by BA, the airport's biggest customer, have demanded a real-terms cut of almost 10% after five years in which charges rose by RPI +7.5%. Walsh insisted the CAA was "not being robust enough". He added: "If the CAA does not take a stronger line on this it will continue to be inefficient and that will be at the expense of passengers." According to BA's calculations, increased landing fees will mean every passenger journey costs £7 more than the airline believes is reasonable. Matthews had provoked Walsh's ire by saying that lower charges gave no incentive for shareholders to invest and that Britain would not be able to attract foreign capital. Heathrow's major shareholders are the sovereign wealth funds of Qatar, Singapore and China, as well as a Canadian pension fund and Spanish construction giant Ferrovial. Walsh said: "Passengers are paying more than they should and the benefits of that are going to higher-than-average rewards for the shareholders. "If Colin Matthews is incapable of running the airport and making the investment that's necessary, and requires an excessive return to justify that investment, then he should be replaced. "If he was the CEO at a listed entity and came out with the statements he's come out with, I suspect shareholders would take a completely different view because of the impact on the share price." Walsh feared the regulator was succumbing to external pressure to adjust its proposal in Heathrow's favour. "It makes London, certainly Heathrow, less competitive than the rest of Europe." He admitted BA could not leave Heathrow, but vowed to appeal if the CAA did not cut its charges. Heathrow has said that the CAA's current proposed charges would mean less maintenance of the airport, and the curbing of planned improvements to baggage facilities and other aspects affecting passengers. A Heathrow official said: "We have put forward plans for more than £400m of cost savings over the next five years. We want to continue the investment that has been improving Heathrow for passengers. "Airlines' proposals for 40% price cuts can't be achieved without risking under-investment and a return to the out-dated Heathrow of the past."
News Article | May 25, 2017
Professor of economics at Dartmouth College, New Hampshire, and member of the Bank’s monetary policy committee from June 2006 to May 2009 This month the big economic story is all about declining real wage growth. Wages have been growing at around 2% for the last three years or so, although the exact rate depends on what measure is used. The best indicator is probably pay settlements, which XpertHR have shown have not been as high as 3% for eight years and have not moved from 2% for three years. When inflation fell below 2% as it did in 2015 and 2016, that meant that real wages were on the rise. Real wages matter because that impacts living standards and what workers can buy. Prices rising less than wages = good; prices rising more than wages = bad. That has reversed itself this month. Inflation has been rising since the Brexit vote as the pound’s sharp drop makes imports to the UK, such as food ingredients and fuel, more expensive. A rise in crude oil prices has also added to the upward pressure on inflation and last month it hit 2.7%, higher than economists had been expecting and well above the Bank of England’s target for inflation at 2.0%. It was the highest inflation rate since September 2013, pushed up in part by higher air fares for Easter and also rising prices for clothing, vehicle excise duty and electricity. I fully expect that inflation will continue its inexorable rise during 2017. Even though unemployment was better than forecast, official data confirmed pay growth failed to keep pace with inflation in the opening three months of 2017 and so wages were falling in real terms. Excluding bonuses, average earnings were up 2.1% year on year, missing economists’ forecasts for a 2.2% rise. Once adjusted for inflation, regular pay fell 0.2% in the three months to March. Pay awards are also settling in below the rate of retail prices index (RPI) inflation. With RPI at 3.5% in April 2017, we now see the largest negative gap between the two indicators since December 2011. Regular weekly pay, excluding bonuses, adjusting for prices were £465 a week in March 2017 according to the Office for National Statistics. This contrasts with £472 a week in March 2007 before the start of the great recession. So pay packets buy less than they did a decade ago. Retail sales defied economists’ expectations in April and rose at the fastest pace for more than a year, in large part due to the warm weather but companies are expecting spending to ease off in May. Workers are being punished by Brexit. Senior economic adviser at the PwC consultancy and member of the Bank’s MPC from October 2006 to May 2011 This month’s economic data paints a picture broadly consistent with the pattern which has been emerging over the course of this year. CPI inflation has risen further to 2.7% – its highest level since the autumn of 2013, and prices are now rising faster than wages. The resulting squeeze on real wages is contributing to the slowdown on the consumer side of the economy. We should be cautious about reading too much into the bounce-back in retail sales in April. The pattern of retail sales in March and April is very sensitive to the timing of Easter and weather effects, so it makes sense to look at spending patterns over a number of months. The volume of retail spending in the past three months is just 0.3% up on the previous three months – representing an annual growth rate of just over 1%. This is very subdued growth in the retail sector – it compares with an average of 4.4% annual increase in spending over the three years 2014-16. There has been more positive news on the jobs front – with the unemployment rate dropping to 4.6%, the lowest since 1975. Employment growth appears to be picking up again after a slowdown in the second half of last year. The numbers in employment were up by over 120,000 in the first quarter of this year – the biggest quarterly increase since the EU referendum. Construction and private services are the main sectors generating jobs in the UK currently – while employment is flatlining in manufacturing and the public sector. Meanwhile, the vacancy rate also points to a pickup in the demand for labour. The number of unfilled vacancies has risen to its highest level since the current data series started in 2001. Taking all this data together, it is generally consistent with the slowdown in economic growth which is expected by most economic forecasters this year and next. Despite this, optimism about global prospects plus a decline in the value of the pound against the euro has helped to push up the UK stock market, with the FTSE 100 hitting a record high in the middle of last week.
News Article | May 13, 2017
Taylor Wimpey last month offered £130m to buyers trapped in new-build homes with spiralling ground rent contracts. It was a move initially greeted with glee by victims of the leasehold scandal. But as details have emerged, some householders say they will still be left paying “frankly obscene” charges. Jo Darbyshire bought her four-bed home in Bolton in 2010 from Taylor Wimpey without realising the full implications of the 999-year leasehold contract, which allowed the freeholder to double the £295 ground rent every 10 years. Only when a neighbour’s house sale fell through – because a mortgage company rejected the ground rent clause – did Darbyshire discover her home had been rendered potentially unsaleable. When she inquired about buying the freehold, things went from bad to worse. Without her knowledge, Taylor Wimpey had sold the freehold to Adriatic Land at a price understood to be £7,375 for each of the 24 homes on the estate. Neighbours who have since tried to buy the freehold say they have been met with demands of £45,000-£50,000 – a huge amount compared to the £200,000 that some of the smaller homes on the estate currently fetch. The ground rent company also demands £100 from householders who request a quote to buy the freehold. They also require that any householder wanting to make alterations – such as building a small extension – also pay a fee. “A neighbour wanted to build a small extension and was quoted £3,000 before a brick was laid,” says Darbyshire. But Taylor Wimpey’s compensation offer has left her deeply frustrated. It offered a “deed of variation … specifically incorporating materially less expensive ground rent review terms”. It is understood the deal will involve the ground rent rising in line with inflation rather than doubling every decade. Darbyshire says it still leaves her in the clutches of a ground rent company and what she alleges are its “exorbitant charges”. In an open letter to Taylor Wimpey chief executive, Peter Redfern, Darbyshire says: “You seem to believe the only wrongdoing is the introduction of doubling ground rents. The real scandal is the onward sale of ALL freeholds … to investment companies, and the consequences to us ... Did you know that, once the freeholds were sold on, that Adriatic would introduce exorbitant charges for alterations and increase the cost of buying the freehold significantly?” Darbyshire says Taylor Wimpey should be offering homebuyers the chance to buy the freehold at the price originally offered when the estate was built. Her letter adds: “The only acceptable way forwards is for you to reinstate me to the position I would have been in had your sales people, and the solicitor you recommend I use, informed me fully at the point of sale, when I would have purchased my freehold for £5,900.” Darbyshire is not alone. Sean Greenwood, who Guardian Money featured last November when we first revealed the extent of the ground rent scandal, says the construction giant should refund the £101,000 cost of the apartment his wife bought in Gornal on the edge of Dudley. We highlighted how one apartment had received a “nil valuation” from a mortgage company because of the doubling ground rents. Greenwood has also written to Redfern, saying: “My wife would still like a full refund. Unfortunately, your most recent offer to change the ground rent review to RPI is unacceptable. We are worried our freeholder maintains the position of power in all negotiations relating to our freehold. “We are also not willing to wait for the time period it will take to complete the change in the deed. We have been trying to sell for over a year and a combination of the doubling ground rent lease and the collapse of the wall in our car park has meant we cannot sell.” More than 4,000 people have joined a Facebook group, the National Leasehold Campaign, to protest over ground rent issues and excessive charges, with complaints directed not just at Taylor Wimpey but at other major developers, including Persimmon and Bellway. Last week, Nationwide told the construction giants it would no longer offer mortgages on new-build properties with short leases or, crucially, where the ground rent is more than 0.1% of the value of the home. In a statement, Redfern said: “This is about doing what we think is right. We recognise the concerns and difficulties that some of our customers have faced as a result of their doubling leases and we are sorry for the worry this has caused. Although we are under no legal obligation to take action, we want to help our customers. “We are working hard with the freeholders to convert our customers’ doubling leases to ones that are significantly less expensive … and which resolve concerns around how easy it is to sell or get a mortgage. Taylor Wimpey will cover the cost of converting the leases. “These leases were put in place between 2007 and 2011 at a time when economic conditions were very different. We stopped using them on sites commenced after 2011.” The company makes clear that the £130m should not be viewed as compensation, as the sale of the leases was legal, and that it has not been obliged to take action. It suggests that the aim of its Ground Rent Review Assistance Scheme is to address saleability and mortgageability rather than pay compensation.
News Article | February 18, 2017
Shopkeepers in Southwold are braced for a tough year. The picturesque seaside town in Suffolk is the area of Britain worst affected by the revaluation of business rates. On average, companies will see their tax bill increase by a staggering 177% from April – but for some the impact will be far worse. Clare Hart, who runs Chapmans newsagents on the high street, says she is nervous rather than angry at the increase: “We are scared and bewildered,” she says. “It’s so ludicrous, it’s difficult to be cross.” Chapmans will pay £4,831 in rates from April, up from £2,280 in this financial year. The tax bill will keep rising until it hits £11,427 for the 2021-22 financial year: five times as high. Hart calculates that Chapmans will need to increase its sales by £50,000 a year to cover the increase, but its average transaction is between just £3 and £3.50. “We can’t put up prices because we won’t be competitive,” she says. “We are already competing with chains like Joules, who also sell sticks of rock and buckets and spades.” Hart was one of a small collection of business leaders who met the local MP, the Conservative Thérèse Coffey, on Friday morning to discuss their fears. “She said she was going to help us,” Hart says. Local businesses in Southwold, including Chapmans, have launched a campaign against the increase. Their stores are decorated with posters showing how a 177% rate rise would affect the price of the products they sell. Mills & Sons, a family-run butcher, has put up a banner reading “SOS – Save Our Shop”. It includes a quote from Theresa May about family firms and small businesses being the “backbone of our country” and that building an economy that “works for all” means “working with and listening to small firms”. The banner then adds: “Dear Mrs May – please listen to us urgently before we’re gone.” George Mills, who runs the butcher with his brother and father, says: “It is not dramatising it to say we would have concerns for the future of the business” if the proposed rates increase happens. “We would certainly have to downscale.” Mills & Sons is set to see its business rate bill surge from £7,000 a year currently to £19,000. “I know as a nation we are cash-strapped and no-one is flush,” Mills adds. “But I am convinced nobody would want a high street that these measures will end up with. It will be a homogenised high street.” Businesses in Southwold are facing this increase because the rental value of commercial property in the town has been increased dramatically in the latest revaluation by the Valuation Office Agency (VOA). It is an affluent town that attracts tourists during the summer and a number of nationwide brands have opened in the area in recent years. Business rates are calculated as a proportion of the rental value. The rental value is supposed to be measured every five years, but the previous revaluation was controversially delayed by the government in 2015 for two years, making the changes that will come into force from April more pronounced. The revaluation is not supposed to increase the tax take for the Treasury but adjust the burden of business rates so it reflects the shape of the economy. As a result, London will pay more under the revaluation while struggling high streets in northern England will pay less. David Gauke, chief secretary to the Treasury, defended the business rates system last week, accusing critics of the tax of “scaremongering” and claiming nearly three-quarters of businesses will see no change or a fall in what they pay. However, these comments have infuriated small businesses facing an increase even more. Tom Innes, who runs a wine shop in Monmouth, south Wales, is facing an increase of £2,000 a year. “You could probably fit my shop sales area into Mr Gauke’s sitting room. “I think he sits in Westminster, does a lot of sums, and overall it is a zero sum. But everyone doesn’t come out zero. It doesn’t work out equal for people like me: I fall through the cracks. But he doesn’t care about that, does he, because the sums work out.” Gauke’s comments were also contradicted by a survey by the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), which found that business rates were the most important issue facing three-quarters of small firms in London, above economic uncertainty and hiring staff. The FSB is pushing for the threshold that businesses pay rates to be increased and for more helpful transitional measures to be introduced to stop the so-called cliff-edge that many firms are facing. At present, buildings with a rateable value of £15,000 or less enjoy a discount on business rates or pay nothing at all. However, the revaluation has pushed many businesses – including Chapmans in Southwold – over the threshold. The government has capped the potential increases in business rates in the first year after the revaluation at 42%, but this is far higher than the 10-12% cap enjoyed in the past and there are also caps in place for those businesses that will benefit from a fall in their rates. “The significance of what is happening in April is now dawning,” says Helen Dickinson, director general of the British Retail Consortium. “The basic problem is that the burden of the property tax is way higher than it is in other countries.” Retailers, who pay the biggest share of business rates, have led calls for a complete overhaul of the tax, not least because high street stores are facing big bills that online retailers with vast warehouses do not have to pay. A report three years ago led by John Rogers, now the boss of Argos, and accountancy firm EY outlined four alternatives. These include measuring energy usage rather than property values; offering discounts for employing workers; linking business rates to corporation tax; and tweaking the existing system by introducing more frequent revaluations. Another idea that was mooted by Justin King, the former boss of Sainsbury’s, was to replace business rates with a sales tax. Despite pledges by George Osborne, the former chancellor, to consider an overhaul of rates, no major changes have yet occurred. Osborne announced in the 2016 budget that from 2020 the annual inflation-based increase in business rates will be calculated using CPI rather than RPI. He also proposed more frequent revaluations, but the details of this are yet to be revealed. The problem for the critics of business rates is that the tax has become one of the Treasury’s biggest and most reliable sources of income, bringing in nearly £29bn last year. The tax is also at the centre of the government’s drive to hand more powers to local authorities. By 2020 some councils will be able to keep 100% of the business rates raised in the local area, up from 50% at present. According to John Webber, head of ratings at property agent Colliers International, local authorities are increasing communications with the liaison officers at the VOA, because of concerns that successful appeals will lead to a black hole in their budgets. The VOA has a backlog of around 280,000 appeals. “The elephant in the room is localism and the devolution of business rates back to local authorities,” he says. “Local authorities cannot afford to see big drops in rateable values. They are not quite pulling the strings, but they are in background telling the VOA they can’t afford [successful appeals].” Councillor Claire Kober, chair of the Local Government Association’s resources board, adds: “Councils currently fund half of all business rates refunds on appeal and have been forced to divert £2.5bn over the past five years to cover the risk of appeals and refunds. This means vital resources being diverted away from stretched local services, such as caring for the elderly, supporting businesses and boosting local growth.” The call for changes to the business rates system is now starting to gain political momentum. Gareth Thomas, shadow minister for local government, and Jim McMahon, his fellow Labour and Co-operative MP, have tabled amendments to the local government finance bill calling for the government to consider offering discounts to hospitals – which face a £322m increase from April – and schools, and also for the business rates system to be fully reviewed before local authorities are allowed to keep 100% of the tax. Thomas says: “Because of the challenges that schools and hospitals are facing, this is a way of offering relief to vital services that are under heavy financial pressure. We want to test the minister’s thinking on that.” Thomas says he is also concerned about whether councils “will have enough in the pot” after the changes to the business rates system. “It does raise a question about the long-term finances for local authorities,” he says. “I think there is a growing recognition that local authorities are under heavy pressure – the social care system is clearly in crisis. “There are a growing number of MPs who are concerned that if you devolve business rates and other responsibilities, will social care be properly funded after 2020 and will they be able to fund other services?” The amendment is scheduled to be debated in parliament on Tuesday. Despite the government’s protestations about scaremongering, the debate about business rates may only be getting started. Jane Morrissey Rosehill nursery, Bolton Jane Morrissey said her business rates bill would go up to about £20,000 a year, from £16,000. “I’ve asked for assistance for the previous one and it’s been declined by the council. I’ve appealed each time it’s gone up.” She said the private nursery, which looks after 70 children on a part- or full-time basis, would have to get an extra eight children to cover the increase in business rates. But this would mean hiring another nursery worker, or three more if the extra children were babies. Her staff get paid at least £15,600 a year, the living wage, but Rosehill prides itself on employing fully qualified staff, who earn graduate wages. The nursery employs 18 people. Morrissey said: “I don’t know what I’m going to do.” She said nurseries should be treated differently from shops and offices over business rates. “They don’t rate us on education but on the income we could get if we rented our building out. We are looked at like retail, like offices. We are not in our own category.” Nurseries also pay the full VAT rate of 20%, while schools only pay 5%. “It’s not a level playing field.” Morrissey added: “It’s really difficult to balance the books at the moment. I think it will see me going out of business in the next few years.” Nurseries cannot charge more than £4 an hour for childcare, and the amount of free childcare available to parents will double to 30 hours from 15 hours a week from September. “The £4 doesn’t cover all the costs that are being imposed on us,” the nursery manager said. Nurseries can increase top-up costs, such as meals and activities, but there is a limit – “you can’t say it’s £20 per dinner,” Morrissey said. “If a child wants to paint a picture, you can charge for the paint and the paper,” she said – but she doesn’t want to do that. She noted that two nurseries in Bolton had gone under in the last fortnight (one of them was not-for-profit and did not even have to pay business rates). Morrissey has spoken to her local MP about her concerns and will lobby the government this week, taking part in a Save the Children campaign to improve the quality of childcare. “They can’t put us all out of business. We’ve been set up to fail. For me, business rates are the biggest problem.” Philip Davey Western Maritime Training, Plymouth Davey, whose Plymouth-based company trains people for the merchant navy, cruise ships and other vessels, said his annual business rates bill had nearly doubled. It has gone from £4,400 in 2009 to £8,400 this year. He said: “The system is totally broken, it is disproportionate and it is unfair.” As a training company, Western Maritime needs a lot of space, and its rateable value has increased from £70 per square metre to £90. A nearby business that used less space but turned a higher profit was taxed less, he said. Davey suggested replacing business rates, a property tax, with a tax on gross profits. “Those who make more, pay more – it’s cost neutral to the government.” He deplored that “the reduction of business rates has really only affected micro-businesses, rather than small businesses,” adding: “We are training and developing people. The rise in business rates will affect our profitability, our investment and our ability to recruit staff – and this is an area that is going to be crucial after Brexit.” Julia Kollewe
News Article | February 28, 2017
With unemployment low and talented, dedicated workers more valuable than ever, companies large and small are focusing more time and resources toward employee recognition. Those efforts to ensure that staffers feel valued will be celebrated by successful employers world-wide on Friday, March 3, with the annual Employee Appreciation Day. “Commonly known as ‘Recognition Day,’ this annual event is not meant as a once-per-year celebration, but as a way to kick-start a year-round culture of appreciation within companies and organizations that makes every day an occasion to recognize good work and encourage employees,” said Kathie Pugaczewski, executive director of Recognition Professionals International – a world-wide professional association at the forefront of workforce recognition. “Our member organizations look at Employee Appreciation Day as a chance to be creative and spotlight the many efforts to recognize good work.” Recognition efforts range in scope from simple events like a root beer float bar at work all the way to elaborate incentives like travel and fiscal rewards. Successful companies like Disney, Southwest Airlines, the Cleveland Clinic and others routinely partake in these efforts, and the results are clear to see. Ensuring employees feel valued has been shown to boost productivity and pay dividends for businesses and organizations. Detailed in a recent RPI webinar, among the many ideas that experts offer for employee recognition activities are: Food – Everyone loves free food, be it a simple snack, a sweet treat, or a full meal, and there’s something special about an employee being served a meal by their supervisor that reinforces the notion of value and recognition. Everything from food truck appearances to ice cream socials are encouraged as a way to recognize employees through food. Team activities – Getting out of the office is imperative to the mental health of employees; even if it’s just to the parking lot for a group stretch. Team activities can be a valuable way to recognize employees and foster a team spirit among members of your organization. Make the office feel different for a day. Some workplaces practice theme days, where workers dress in the colors of their favorite sports team, or emulate their favorite superhero. Games like Jenga contests or a video game setup can bring a spirit of friendly competition to the workplace as well. Wellness – Some workplaces provide healthy snacks or energy-boosting foods to give employees a needed jumpstart, especially in the afternoons. A popular wellness activity is to bring in massage professionals to provide back and neck rubs. For other webinars and a wealth of information on Recognition Day, please visit the RPI website at http://www.recognition.org. For interviews with employee recognition experts, please contact Jess Myers, 651-290-7465, jessm(at)ewald.com. About RPI Founded in 1995, Recognition Professionals International (RPI) is the only professional association at the forefront of workforce recognition through its sole focus on recognition innovations and education as a systematic method for improvements in the workplace. RPI is endorsed by top authorities in the industry, has an impressive membership of Fortune 500 organizations and is the only association offering Certified Recognition Professional® (CRP) courses.