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Cost of living: Chancellor Rishi Sunak confirms U-turn on windfall tax

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The government has U-turned on its opposition to a windfall tax on oil and gas firms, announcing it will introduce a levy to help tackle rising bills.

Ministers had rejected the idea – put forward by opposition parties – that would see a one-off charge imposed on the company’s record profits.

But Chancellor Rishi Sunak said his levy would “tax extraordinary profits fairly and incentivise investments”.

Labour’s Rachel Reeves said Mr Sunak had “finally come to his senses”.

The chancellor said new tax would raise £5bn over the course of the next year, allowing the government to “help families with the cost of living”, while avoiding “having to increase our debt burden further”.

He added: “There is nothing noble in burdening future generations with ever more debt today because politicians of the day were too weak to make the tough decisions.”

The new tax will help fund a £15bn package from the government, which includes a £650 one-off payment for eight million low income households, and a change to the £200 loan scheme for energy bills for all homes in the autumn – increasing it to £400 without the need to pay it back.

But Liberal Democrat Treasury spokeswoman Christine Jardine said the measures were “too little, too late”.

The plans received a mixed reaction from the Conservative backbenchers, with some calling it “tripe” and others saying it did not go far enough. The government faced accusations that it had timed the announcement to distract from the release of the Sue Gray report into lockdown-breaking parties in Downing Street during the pandemic.

But the claims were denied by No 10.

Households across the country have faced soaring costs in recent months as the prices of food, fuel and energy have all rocketed, with inflation hitting a 40-year high. The government has been under growing pressure to act, especially after energy regulator Ofgem warned of an additional rise to bills of £800 in the autumn.

The Liberal Democrats first put forward the idea of a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas companies – which have peaked as the economy restarted after the pandemic – in November, with Labour outlining its own version in January.

The parties said the money raised could then go towards helping those households hardest hit by the cost of living increases.

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Ex F1 chief executive would “take a bullet” for “friend” Vladimir Putin

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Bernie Ecclestone Putin

Formula 1 have issued a statement following comments by their former chief executive, Bernie Ecclestone, in an interview with Good Morning Britain on Thursday morning, in which he praised “sensible” Vladimir Putin who he would “still take a bullet for”.

 

The 91-year-old businessman said that “unfortunately he’s like a lot of business people, certainly like me, that we make mistakes from time to time and when you make the mistake, you have to do the best you can to get out of it.”

 

These comments come amidst the full-scale Russian invasion of Ukraine following President Putin’s authorisation of a “special military operation” in the east, after intense diplomacy and the imposition of Western sanctions on Russia failed to deter him.

 

Ecclestone simultaneously criticised the Ukrainian leader Volodymyr Zelenskyy for not making a “big enough effort to speak to Putin”, whom he described as a “sensible person” who “would have listened to him and could have probably done something about it.”

 

He went on to confirm that he believed that if Zelenskyy had done more to avert war, as opposed to any change in Putin’s actions, the conflict that has taken the lives of thousands of innocent Ukrainian people could have been averted. “I’m quite sure Ukraine, if they’d wanted to get out of it properly, could have done.”

 

A Formula One spokesman has said: “The comments made by Bernie Ecclestone are his personal views and are in very stark contrast to the position of the modern values of our sport.”

 

What are your thoughts – Join us on Facebook to join in the conversation..

 

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British Airways staff to strike over summer holidays

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A total of 700 British Airways workers at Heathrow Airport have voted in favour of and are set to go on a strike during the summer holidays in a dispute over pay, where demand is at its highest.

 

Unite and GMB union members have backed industrial action due to a 10% pay cut which was imposed at the peak of the pandemic, and is not to be reinstated. 94.7% of Unite members and 95% of GMB members voted in favour of the walkouts.

 

It is understood that these proposed strikes will only be undertaken by fewer than 50% of British Airways staff at Heathrow Airport. Nevertheless, if these strikes go ahead, there will no doubt be disruption for passengers and possible cancellations of flights.

 

Some members of BA staff, such as ground operations and engineers, have had their pay cuts reversed, however the GMB claim that check-in staff “have had nothing”. Unite have called this an insult. BA have issued a statement claiming that they are “extremely disappointed” with the decision made and are committed to finding a solution with the unions.

 

The exact strike dates are to be confirmed in the next few days.

 

What are your thoughts on the strikes, join us on Facebook to join the conversation…

 

Follow us at @GBToday for updates.

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Biggest Rail Strikes in 30 years to go ahead as talks fail

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Britain is braced for the biggest rail strikes in 30 years after last-ditch talks failed to resolve a row over pay and conditions.

Thousands of staff affiliated to the Rail, Maritime and Transport union at Network Rail and 13 other train operators will walk out tomorrow, Thursday and Saturday.

The RMT says plans by Network Rail – the body which owns stations, track and signals – to cut 2,500 jobs, will put safety at risk. But the industry says it has to modernise and safety will not be compromised.

The Rail Delivery Group – which represents train firms – says the Covid pandemic has led to a decline in passenger numbers and while it wants to offer a pay rise to staff, the way the network operates has to change. But the RMT says it is prepared to take industrial action “for as long as it takes to get a settlement” and warned strikes could take place for the next six months.

It says train operators have now made an offer, but there is no further offer from Network Rail, after one was rejected last Friday. General secretary Mick Lynch said: “The RMT National Executive Committee has now found both sets of proposals to be unacceptable and it is now confirmed that the strike action scheduled this week will go ahead.”

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, whose department oversees the operation of the network, described calls by the RMT for ministers to intervene as a “stunt” and accused the union of “gunning” for industrial action. He said the strike was orchestrated by “union barons” and will cause misery and chaos to millions of commuters.

Services have begun to be affected this evening, and are likely to be disrupted throughout this week as the impact of the staggered stops cause an impact even on non-strike days.  Talks had continued this afternoon, but the two sides could not reach a deal.

Sources close to the negotiations said Network Rail was prepared to offer striking unions a five per cent pay rise to settle the dispute.

Use this tool to see if trains will run from your station.

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