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News in brief 

Monday, 24th March

Chancellor revolutionises pension rules in Britain

THERE is a real problem with the perception of what is right and what is wrong in Britain and at the heart of it is the failure of people in many professions to act in the best interests of their customers.

In the financial sector alone many individuals at the top of their professions appear to have been able to act with impunity, often being rewarded for their transgressions with large bonuses and excellent salary packages that do not reflect performance.

It is against this background that Chancellor George Osborne has acted in the Budget to radically reform pension arrangements so that people will have more control over their pension pots and can better elect to avoid the captive annuity trap, which has served pensioners so badly of late.

As with banking, the reputation of the pensions sector is now badly tarnished and recent research suggests that less than half of all people approaching retirement trust their pension providers to act in their best interests. That is an unhealthy situation and the Chancellor deserves credit for taking action.

Under new rules people will be able to cash in part or all of their pensions when they approach retirement and will no longer feel forced to buy an annuity to give them a regular income for life. Annuity rates have been poor in recent years.

New rules are to be introduced covering the duty of providers to their customers are these will be overseen by the Financial Conduct Authority.

George Osborne’s budget has been well received and recent polls put the Conservative Party and Labour Party neck and neck as the General Election moves closer. The surge in support for the Conservative Party appears to be at the expense of the anti-Europe United Kingdom Independence Party and the Liberal Democrats.

Sir Philip to take on supermarkets

SIR Philip Green, the celebrated retailer, has announced that his British Home Stores department stores are to start selling food and he plans to undercut Britain’s biggest food retailer, Tesco, and also Asda, Sainsbury’s and Morrisons, by as much as 10 per cent.

He told the Sunday Times newspaper big discounts would apply to branded goods. Food sales are to commence at Staines and Warrington in the near future.

It is a return to the old days because the stores have sold food in the past, although this time it will be with a policy of aggressive discounting. Already Aldi and Lidl have squeezed the margins of the big four, which are planning to slash prices in response.

Sir Philip has vast experience across retailing and owns high street clothes shops, including Topshop.


UK concerns over EU membership

RECENT research by Tory peer Lord Ashcroft suggests that voters in Britain do not believe Prime Minister David Cameron will be able to claw back powers from the European Union.

Mr Cameron has pledged an in-out referendum by 2017 if the Conservatives win the General Election. The vote would follow negotiations aimed at bringing reforms.

Over half of those polled thought other EU member states would block reform and two thirds thought they obtained greater benefits from membership than the UK.

There is also a huge question-mark over democratic accountability with one in ten people unable to name their own Member of the European Parliament and concerns over the inability to get accounts properly signed off.

Lord Ashcroft told the Sun on Sunday that the Prime Minister had already shown he can get a better deal for Britain and the majority of people want to stay in the European Union.


Family doctors in plea for funding

THE Royal College of General Practitioners in Britain has called on the Government to devote a larger slice of the national health budget to doctors in general practice because of the pressure on the service.

The organisation says a third of patients are now unable to get a doctor’s appointment for themselves or a family member in the same week.

Dr Maureen Baker said cuts affecting local doctors’ surgeries was a false economy because general practice was shoring up the rest of the national health service.


Millionaire to face trial in South Africa

A MILLIONAIRE businessman accused of ordering the killing of his wife in South Africa in 2010 while the couple were on honeymoon is to be extradited by Britain to face charges.

Shrien Dewani, 33, from Bristol, has fought the move on mental health grounds, but three High Court judges have rejected his latest appeal.

A spokesman for the South African government has said he was confident that Dewani would receive a fair trial in South Africa.


Government happy with jobs figures

EMPLOYMENT Minister Esther McVey has announced that Britain’s employment rate is increasing faster that that of Europe and the United States and there are now a record 14 million women working, well above the European Union average.

The Government is particularly pleased to see the number of unemployed young people falling. There are now 1,000 job vacancies being filled in the private sector every day as the economy grows


Chelsea hit six against Arsenal

CHELSEA are the toast of English soccer and lead the Barclay’s Premier League table following Saturday’s emphatic 6-0 win over Arsenal.

It seemed as though every ball would find its way into the net and it was no way for Gunner’s manager Arsene Wenger to celebrate a thousand games in charge at the club. To add insult to injury, the referee managed to send off the wrong Arsenal player during the game.

Liverpool also scored six in their win over Cardiff, who hit three in reply. The Meseysiders lie second in the table ahead of Manchester City, but City remain a major threat to the clubs above them as they have games in hand.

Arsenal are fourth, and Tottenham fifth after a hard-earned win over Southampton.

Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney scored what must be the goal of the week, a beautifully flighted lob from just inside the Fulham half. Rooney scored both in United’s 2-0 win over Fulham.