Coastal Communities Fund extended

The UK government has announced that its Coastal Communities Fund is increasing. The five per cent rise in capital will extend the pot to £29 million and it will now continue until 2016.

Launched in 2012, the fund is designed to improve the economic viability of the country’s seaside towns and villages, especially those that are much in need of regeneration.

The Centre for Social Justice think tank has conducted research that backs this up, revealing recently that seaside towns are not making any progress and therefore are suffering from “severe social breakdown”.

By boosting the economic potential of these important regions, there is real scope for big-time investors to use services like PropertySales and pump cash into commercial properties, which will ensure that any developments that take place do so with a lasting legacy in mind.

“The fund will support around 5,000 jobs and has created hundreds of opportunities for local apprentices in new charitable, entrepreneurial or social enterprise schemes,” commented Danny Alexander, chief secretary to the Treasury.

“Growing marine revenues from the Crown Estate have allowed us to increase the fund by five per cent and I urge projects to get their bids ready for round three when it opens next year.”

Recent figures from the office for National Statistics (ONS) revealed that there is a lot of work to be done and therefore a considerable amount of potential for commercial investment, be it hotels for sale or retail outlets.

For example, the ONS stated that 25 of the 31 “large” English seaside towns have above average levels of deprivation. This includes places like Clacton, Skegness, Hastings and Blackpool.

In restoring seaside towns and villages to their former glorious selves and bringing them fully into the 21st century, the government expects to see more business opportunities emerge, for local employment to see significant growth and for local people to benefit professionally and personally.

The Coastal Communities Fund requires tenders to outline a detailed regeneration plan, and projects have to show how they will meet a commons set of goals. One of the key criteria that has to be met is showing how “coastal communities are better able to use their assets (physical, natural, social, economic and cultural) to promote sustainable economic growth and jobs”.

Some of the activities supported involve maintaining and developing tourist infrastructure; creating new workplaces that help to support and grow local economies; improving small-scale and sustainable transport initiatives; and investing in social enterprises that make better use of local assets.

“Many seaside towns have particular challenges and the Coastal Communities Fund is another way we’re helping them tap into new business opportunities, creating jobs and new skills that will benefit the whole community,” explained Greg Clark, financial secretary to the Treasury.

“Through measures like the Coastal Communities Fund, City Deals and work with Local Enterprise Partnerships we’re putting civic leaders, residents, local businesses and civil society organisations in the driving seat; helping seaside towns around the country strengthen their local economy.”


UK Government to reform pension charges

 Radical reforms to pension charges are to be brought forward by the UK Government, which will reduce the charges on pension schemes used for auto-enrollment, HM Treasury and Department for Work & Pensions revealed today.

The measures are intended to protect pension pots and encourage people to save for their retirement through workplace pensions.

According to the Treasury, the government anticipates that up to 9 million people will open new pensions under workplace schemes, which is expected to increase the amount being saved in to auto-enrolment pensions by approximately GBP11bn annually.

The average charge on new pension schemes is reportedly around 0.51%; however the Office of Fair Trading has reported that annual charges of over 1% are made on more than 186,000 pension pots with GBP2.65bn assets. Charges include costs and fees levied on the scheme member for a range of services such as administration fees, contribution fees, active member discounts and investment fees, which include transaction costs.

A consultation by the Department for Work and Pension has also begun,  with regard to capping pension fees and increasing transparency in the pensions sector. Industry members and the public are being asked for their views on how a cap that protects savings should be designed. The caps could include: a higher charge cap of 1% of funds under management; a lower charge cap of 0.75% of funds under management; or a two-tier ‘comply or explain’ cap.

It is proposed that there would be a standard cap of 0.75% of funds under management for all qualifying schemes and there would be a higher cap of 1% for employers who explained to the Pensions Regulator why a scheme charged more than 0.75%.

Sajid Javid, Financial Secretary to the Treasury, commented: “The government is determined to help hard working families and that includes making sure someone’s saving will deliver the biggest possible returns and not be eaten away at by a variety of charges and fees. As part of

Falklands war surrender documents to go under the hammer

FOUR incredibly rare artefacts from the Falklands War are to go under the hammer, including surrender documents which would normally be housed in government archives.

The lots, three ‘instruments of surrender’ and a map of the Falklands, are key relics from the 1982 British-Argentine war.

All four documents bear the signatures of high-ranking military officials from both sides of the conflict and then Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher.

Though the surrender documents – one for the Falklands Islands themselves and one for South Georgia – are facsimiles, they are graced with the genuine signature of the Iron Lady and Major General Sir Jeremy Moore, commander of the British Forces during the conflict.

The lots will go under the hammer on November 17, and could fetch up to £16,000 in total.

And auctioneers say that this is the closest collectors will come to owning the real versions of the state documents, the originals of which are most likely stored in the National Archives.

Richard Westwood-Brookes, historical documents experts at Mullock’s Auctioneers, in Ludlow, Shropshire, said that he believes the documents are faxes or copies of faxes sent to Whitehall.

Because state documents are usually archived and stored under heavy protection, it would be impossible for a collector to get their hands on an original.

Mr Westwood-Brookes said:”I’ve never seen one of these state documents come up for auction before.

“The originals may be kept somewhere in Whitehall or even in the Imperial War Museum, but they will be unobtainable to the average person.

“It’s the nearest you’re going to get to the original thing.

“Even though they were produced on modern technology or modern technology of the time, at least, and faxed over to London, they are still state documents in the way that the original documents for Agincourt are state documents.

“Like any parliamentary document, they are kept from way back, but you’d never ever be able to buy the original.”

He said that the map – which is an original and bears the signature of Sir Rex Hunt, Civil Commissioner for the Falkland Islands at the time of the war – was produced by the British in 1966.

But it also bears an Argentine stamp, suggesting that it was used operationally by the invading forces.

Mr Westwood-Brookes said: “Although they are copies the map is original, I am certain that is from the original conflict.

“When we left the island when the Argentines invaded, we tried to trash everything, tried to destroy everything that would have been useful to them to prevent it falling in to the hands of the enemy.

“This one slipped through the net and gave the Argentines a detailed map of the Falklands that they could use.

“I’m fairly certain it would have been their campaign map for the war.”

He added that he expected the documents to generate a lot of interest due to the ‘unique’ nature of the war.

“It was the last war that we fought on our own.

“Everything else recently we have only been part of a combined force which inevitably involves the American army.

“In fact, it was the only war that we fought in the 20th century on our own – the last throe of the British Empire, and a conflict like it will never happen again.”


Government to suspend general budget support to Malawi

Malawi will no longer receive general budget support from the UK Government, Andrew Mitchell announced today.

The International Development Secretary took the decision after the Government of Malawi repeatedly failed to address UK concerns over economic management and governance.

General budget support, which is used to allow governments to deliver their own national strategies for poverty reduction against an agreed set of targets, has been suspended indefinitely.

On governance, demonstrations have been suppressed, civil society organisations intimidated, and an Injunctions Bill passed that would make it easier for the Government to place restrictions on opponents without legal challenge.

On the economy, the UK is concerned that Malawi’s overvalued exchange rate has created chronic foreign exchange shortages which are having a serious impact on the Malawian private sector’s ability to drive future growth. There are now daily fuel queues, tobacco exports have deteriorated and Malawi is off-track with its IMF programme.

The Development Secretary’s decision is in line with international concern over Malawi’s current position. The World Bank, the European Union, the African Development Bank, Germany and Norway have all suspended or ended general budget support to Malawi.

Andrew Mitchell, Secretary of State for International Development, said:

“The UK provides development assistance in order to help communities lift themselves out of grinding poverty, whether that’s through getting children into school, ensuring women survive childbirth or helping farmers grow enough food to feed their families and communities.

“But poor people in Malawi and British taxpayers alike have been let down. In these circumstances I cannot justify the provision of general budget support for Malawi.

“In the meantime we will use other means to ensure that programmes to protect poor Malawians, amongst the poorest people in the world, and deliver basic services like health and education are able to continue.

“The UK has a long and deep commitment to the people of Malawi and we are keen to see the country resume the good progress it has made in recent years. I remain willing to reconsider our approach as and when our concerns are addressed.”

The UK has helped improve food security in Malawi for over seven million people a year by providing them with high yielding maize and legume seeds via the Farm Input Subsidy Programme.

UK support to strengthen the health service has helped save the lives of 3,200 pregnant women and 40,000 children since 2004. UK funding has built over 3,200 primary school classrooms and 4,800 toilets since 2001, helping keep more girls in school.
This comes as the Government reduces general budget support across the world by 43% and tightens up the principles on which budget support agreements are made.

All budget support is tightly monitored against a strict set of expected results and can be reviewed by the Independent Commission for Aid Impact at any time.

Temporary migrants will no longer be able apply for settlement

The government is implementing reforms to the immigration system which will reduce immigration to sustainable levels. Today’s announcement is the next step in this process.

Launching a public consultation on reforms to the work routes leading to settlement, Immigration Minister Damian Green set out plans to re-classify visas as either ‘temporary’ or ‘permanent’ and introduce stricter criteria for those who want to stay.

Immigration Minister Damian Green said:

“The proposals I am making today are aimed at breaking the link between temporary and permanent migration.

“Settlement has become almost automatic for those who choose to stay. This needs to change. The immigration system has got to be made to work properly.

“We want the brightest and best workers to come to the UK, make a strong contribution to our economy while they are here, and then return home.”

Under the current system, many workers are allowed to apply to stay here permanently. In 2010, 84,000 people who entered the UK for employment were granted settlement. This compares to less than 10,000 who qualified for employment related settlement in 1997.

The government has already implemented new settlement requirements for skilled workers entering under Tiers 1 and 2 of the Points Based System, which require applicants to demonstrate English-language proficiency, continue to meet the salary requirements and to pass a new criminality test.

Key proposals under consideration in the 12 week consultation are as follows:

* re-branding Tier 2 (the skilled worker route) as temporary, ending the assumption that settlement will be available for those who enter on this route;

* allowing certain categories of Tier 2 migrant, for example those earning over £150,000 or occupations of a specific economic or social value to the UK, to retain an automatic route to settlement;

* creating a new category into which, after three years in the UK, the most exceptional Tier 2 migrants may switch and go on to apply for settlement;

* allowing Tier 2 migrants who do not switch into a settlement route to stay for a maximum of five years with the expectation that they and any dependants will leave at the end of that time;

* introducing an English language requirement for adult dependants of Tier 2 migrants applying to switch into a route to settlement;

* restricting the maximum period of leave for Tier 5 Temporary Workers to 12 months; and

* closing or reforming routes for overseas domestic workers.

Damian Green added:

“A small number of exceptional migrants will be able to stay permanently but for the majority, coming here to work will not lead automatically to settlement in the UK.”

The Government has committed to reforming all routes of entry to the UK in order to bring immigration levels under control. The settlement, Tier 5 and overseas domestic worker reforms will work alongside the annual limit, the new student visa reforms and changes to the family route which will be consulted on later this year.