Here are this week’s headlines, brought to you by our Student Commercial Awareness Team:
- Government to crackdown on illegal traveller sites
Reported by Anna-Mei Harvey
The Housing Minister has launched a consultation on authorities’ powers and processes on the provision of traveller camps.
As of July 2017, the traveller caravan count found 22,792 traveller caravans in England. 84% of those were pitched on authorised sites provided either by local councils or funded privately. The remaining, unauthorised settlements account for around 16% of the traveller community. These unauthorised encampments cause issues with settled communities. Local authorities now receive a greater number of complaints regarding antisocial behaviour, damage to property and trespassing.
When interviewed by Radio 4, Mr Rabb acknowledged that increasing the number of council provided sites may help solve some issues. At present, local authorities across the country provide approximately 6000 caravan pitches. Despite this, he added, more is needed to be done to tackle the “significant minority who are not going to adhere to the rules…”
The Minister’s response to this rule-breaking is to increase enforcement powers held by the police and local authorities. He has suggested a tightening of trespassing laws to bring them in line with Irish laws. This would give the police discretion to direct trespassers, or those suspected of trespassing, to leave land. Failure to comply could result in fines or short prison sentences.
Whilst the Minister insists on adopting a tolerant attitude, his proposals to enforce settled people’s rights more harshly does little to resolve the issues of unauthorised settlements.
Click here to read the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government’s Statistical Release on Housing.
- 12-year jail sentence given to a former A&E doctor with an ‘assassination list’
Reported by Radhika Morally
Dr Martin Watt, a former A&E consultant, has been jailed for 12 years after a trial in Glasgow’s High Court, as a result of possessing firearms with the intent to endanger life.
The 62-year-old worked at Monksland Hospital, in Airdrie, for 18 years before he was dismissed in 2012 following disciplinary proceedings. He was later found with a variety of weaponry, including three sub-machine guns, two pistols, 1500 live cartridges and an “assassination list” of those he deemed responsible for his dismissal. He made plans to kill dozens of people, some of which he had included addresses and car registration plates of.
Watt’s reasoning, that the hit list was a reassurance and the weapons were simply to improve his marksmanship, was found to be unsatisfactory by the court and they found him guilty last month. Lady Stacy, who passed sentence, acknowledged Watt’s contribution to the community and expressed that it was “sad to see a man who has held the positions you have in this situation”.
As a result of the jury’s decision, therefore, Watt has been given an extended sentence by the court – 12 years in prison followed by three years of supervision. A serious Crime Prevention Order was also granted, which restricts his internet, travel and NHS visits for 5 years after his release.
- Gender pay gap stills looms over today's society
Reported by Paige Waters
Over 1,000 British companies failed to report their gender pay gap, resulting in them breaking the law. Now they risk facing legal action unless they report their gender pay gap statistics within 28 days. If the companies fail to report their statistics within this time frame, it has been stated that they will be named and shamed, face court action, and fined. This has now become an obligatory yearly occurrence.
Of those companies that submitted their data, it was found that eight out of ten of them pay men more than women, which was approximately 9.7% less.
The chief executive of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, Rebecca Hilsenrath, has commented stating that “reporting gender pay gaps is not optional; it is a legal requirement, as well as being the right thing to do. We will soon be starting enforcement against all employers that haven’t published”.
It has been advised that women join a trade union in order to help combat the gender pay gap. However, following the recent publishing of statistics, it has been discovered that several of the unions also had pay gaps which were above the national average of 18.4%.
The UK’s biggest trade union failed to publish reports before the deadline, but eventually filed them on Thursday. This led to the discovery that for every £1 a man earns on average, a woman is only paid 70p. The trade union had a median gender pay gap of 29.6%.
This was not the only extravagant pay gap; Monsoon’s was 36.1%, Body Shop at 38.9% and Rockstar North Limited being 31.8%.
Read more here.
- Uncertainty over Pershing Square
Reported by Spencer Yap
Following a number of bad calls, Pershing Square Capital Management (the multi billion-dollar hedge fund), is now seeing a number of its institutional investors to seek withdrawals from its private funds.
In 2012, Bill Ackman, Founder and CEO of Pershing Square, took a $1 billion short position on Herbalife’s stock. For years Ackman was insistent that the company’s stock price would plumet to 0. Although the stock price of the company did fall over the years, never did it reach the amount intended by the Founder of Pershing Square. Just last year, it raised around 50%. The hedge fund did not disclose the loses due to the short, but losses forced Ackman to exit his short position.
Similarly, Ackman took a substantial stake in Pharmaceutical company Valeant, which was tangled up in multiple law suits, causing the investment to be unprofitable with losses totally $4 billion. The most notable law suit concerned its alleged claims of insider trading. In this instance, Ackman also bought a billion-dollar stake in Allergan, makers of Botox, and allegedly use his seat at the table to convince shareholders to agree to a sale to Valeant (which Pershing Square also had an interest in). Ultimately, the case was settled outside of court with a settlement of $290 million in 2017. In January this year, Pershing Square was reported to be managing only $9 billion, half of what it used to manage in its prime.
Such calls led to a large redemption by investors. However, according to the by-laws of the company, investors are only allowed to redeem an eighth of investment each quarter. This translates to roughly two years for an individual to fully recover the amount. Yet, at the end of 2017, an estimated two-thirds of the allowable amount was withdrawn. Simultaneously, JPMorgan took Pershing Square off their recommended list of interments for its clients.
In its letter to investors, Ackman “vows to end three years of under-performance” and began “restructuring [the company] into a smaller, investment-centric organisations whose future asset growth will be driven by results”.