The lifting of employment restrictions on migrants from Bulgaria and Romania kicked in yesterday, with the first arrivals greeted by TV cameras at UK airports. Empty seats on some flights mean there is little sign of the feared immigration surge. However, Labour’s shadow immigration minister David Hanson has criticised the government for failing to protect low-skilled British workers whose jobs may be threatened by migrant workers. He argues it has done nothing to prevent employers undercutting wages by recruiting from overseas (Sun p2, Times p8, Telegraph p1 and 4, Guardian p4, Mail p1, 10 and 11, FT p2, Express p4 and 5, Mirror p11)
Rail passengers are facing an average 3.1 per cent increase in the cost of their annual season tickets, affecting hundreds of thousands of commuters. The increase takes effect today and means fares are rising three times faster than wages for many travellers. Campaigners warn that the government could be making a profit from passengers by 2018, despite George Osborne acting to limit regulated price increases in December’s Autumn Statement (Independent p5)
Train companies have also been told to convert first-class carriages into standard class seating to combat overcrowding and rebalance seating towards those with cheaper tickets (Times p2, Telegraph p6, Guardian p10, Mail p1 and 2)
A poll of 100 economists suggests Britain’s recovery will strengthen this year, with the country’s economy one of the few to beat expectations in the second half of 2013 as recoveries in the euro area and Japan faltered. Economists’ average forecasts include 2.4% GDP growth, up from 1.4% a year ago, and 7.1% unemployment, down from 7.5% a year ago (FT p1).
America’s biggest bank, JP Morgan Chase & Co, paid more than 100 of its top staff in London nearly £2.1m on average in 2012, new figures reveal. The bank’s net income hit a record £12.7bn, up 12% on 2011 despite multi-billion dollar losses incurred from the ‘London Whale’ trading scandal. (Independent p15)
With more than 6,000 people having applied for mortgages under the Help To Buy scheme, Barclays and Santander will introduce new products to the range this month to compete with Lloyds, RBS, HSBC, Virgin Money and Aldermore. The number of applicants doubled between November and December and the scheme is expected to expand rapidly in 2014 (Times p26, Guardian p13).
Homeowners will be able to divert historic rights of way from their land under new plans being drawn up by environment secretary Owen Paterson. The move comes after years of campaigning by residential groups against councils which invoke ancient rights of way through private land. A path becomes a right of way after 20 years of unhindered public use. (Times p1 and p4).