Newspaper Headlines – Tuesday 4th December


The Times reports that George Osborne is stuck in a game of cat and mouse with residents of Billionaire’s Row. It is believed that thousands of off shore companies, some of which are based in the Caymans, Panama and Dutch Antilles, are exploiting a loophole which allows them to buy some of Britain’s most expensive homes and avoid paying taxes on them. In London, 2837 overseas companies have bought mansions worth £2m or more in London boroughs of City of Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea, paving the way for its owners to avoid stamp duty, inheritance tax and capital gains tax. This means £5.6bn worth of prime property in the capital’s two priciest postcodes is potentially shielded from Revenue and Customs. Times, p1, 10-11


Ex chief of HBOS Sir James Crosby has reluctantly admitted that it was incompetence that brought down HBOS. Though he apologised for the appalling loan decisions, he rejected suggestions he should pay back any rewards including an annual pension of £572,000. It also emerged that the former chief executive sold two thirds of his shares in the bank, two years before its near collapse. Accused of getting out before the crash, Sir James claimed he was unknowingly balancing his portfolio of assets. This staggering admission is likely to see him bracketed as a villain alongside RBS’ Fred Goodwin. Independent, p1; Times, p45; Telegraph, B1


Personal Finance

The government’s flagship Funding for Lending Scheme has got off to an underwhelming start. The Bank of England revealed that only six out of 35 lenders who signed up to the scheme have accessed any cheap funding. The £4.36bn of total funding accessed so far by lenders represents about 7% of the total available to them. While signs show some easing of the availability of mortgages, small firms say they are not benefitting from this scheme. The Federation of Small Businesses is reported to have said the scheme has been helping the mortgage market more than businesses and homeowners. Independent, p51; Guardian, p31


Starbucks is to slash range of workers’ benefits including cutting paid lunch breaks, sick leave and maternity benefits for 7000 British workers. New contractual terms are being circulated with numerous minor benefits being removed in a bid for the company to bear the cost of its potentially increased tax bill. Guardian, p11  


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