Income Tax

The Telegraph leads with “Millions with multiple incomes at risk of shock tax bills

Up to three million people with more than one source of income face backdated tax bills of £2,000 per year because of errors by HM Revenue & Customs. Among those most likely to be affected are veterans who have taken a civilian job after leaving the Armed Forces, but who also draw a military pension. Pensioners with two pensions and those who have continued to work part-time after retirement are also more likely to be hit.

Taxpayers, who must complete their self-assessment tax returns before Jan 31, are being warned to check their paperwork again to make sure they are not affected. Problems arise because various tax offices around Britain are failing to share information about taxpayers’ incomes on a central database.

Economy

Reporting from America, the Telegraph has “Britain’s recovery is proof David Cameron is ‘doing something right’, says Barack Obama

Britain’s economic recovery is evidence that David Cameron “must be doing something right”, Barack Obama has said, in a huge pre-election boost to the Prime Minister. In what will be seen as an effective endorsement of Mr Cameron, the American President hailed Mr Cameron’s leadership and described him as one of his “closest and most trusted partners in the world”.

His comments, delivered alongside Mr Cameron in the East Room of the White House, will be a major boost to the Prime Minister with less than four months until the general election. Asked whether Britain should “stick to the plan” and if Mr Cameron is “right” over his plans for the economy, the President said: “I would note that Great Britain and the United States are two economies that are standing out at a time when a lot of other countries are having problems. So we must be doing something right.”

Back to home shores, The Guardian reports that “David Cameron calls for wage increases in wake of oil price slump

British businesses should increase the wages of their staff and pay the living wage for lower paid workers as they enjoy record profits in the wake of the fall in oil prices, David Cameron has said. In a sign that the Tories appreciate they need to intensify their efforts to meet Ed Miliband’s campaign on the cost of living crisis, the prime minister said that growing profits should be “passed through” in wage rises.

The prime minister called for companies to act after official figures show that the fall in oil prices in recent months has led to a 16-year high in the profitability of companies. The figures from the Office for National Statistics showed that corporate profitability, using a measure of the return on the cost of production, was 12% in the third quarter of 2014.

The Mail also reports on this, as does The Express.

Islamic Extremism

The Independent also reports from Washington, with “Cameron and Obama vow joint measures to tackle ‘poisonous and fanatical’ Islamists

David Cameron and Barack Obama today detailed fresh measures to combat Islamist extremism at home and abroad as they declared their joint determination to confront violent extremism. Following talks at the White House, the leaders set out moves to tackle the growth of hardline ideology in Britain and the United States and to intensify the action against Islamic State forces in Iraq.

Although the agenda – international terrorism and the world economy – was serious and weighty, Mr Cameron’s team will be delighted at the warm personal tribute the President Obama paid him. He said: “Put simply David is a great friend. He is one of my closest and most trusted partners in the world.”

However, the Guardian reports this item negatively with “Barack Obama and David Cameron fail to see eye to eye on surveillance

Barack Obama and David Cameron struck different notes on surveillance powers after the president conceded that there is an important balance to be struck between monitoring terror suspects and protecting civil liberties.

As Cameron warned the internet giants that they must do more to ensure they do not become platforms for terrorist communications, the US president said he welcomed the way in which civil liberties groups hold them to account by tapping them on the shoulder.

Obama agreed with the prime minister that there could be no spaces on the internet for terrorists to communicate that could not be monitored by the intelligences agencies, subject to proper oversight. But, unlike Cameron, the president encouraged groups to ensure that he and other leaders do not abandon civil liberties.

And on the ground, the Daily Mail reports from ISIS-held territory with “Thrown from a roof, stoned to death and crucified: While the world reacts with horror to terror in Europe, new ISIS executions show the medieval brutality jihadists would bring to the West

Two men were hurled from the top of a tower block, two more were crucified in front of a baying crowd and a woman was stoned to death in the latest series of horrific executions by ISIS. The men were thrown from the roof down to the crowd below in the brutal punishment for being gay.

Charges found against the accused were announced by a masked Islamic State fighter, using a small handheld radio. Reading from a list, he declares the men are guilty of engaging in homosexual activities and should be punished by death, in accordance with Islamic State’s radical interpretation of Sharia law.

Davos

The Independent reports from Davos: “World Economic Forum 2015: Prince Andrew expected to attend networking event in Davos

It is the annual networking shindig for the political and corporate elite where the high altitude is matched only by the high-level networking. It might be the only conference in the world where rapper and music producer Will.i.am waxing lyrical about wearable technology creates a diary clash with Tony Blair debating whether religion is a pretext for conflict.

Welcome to the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum, four days in the Swiss mountain resort of Davos-Klosters, where ministers, chief executives, central bankers and academics convene for a whirl of cocktail parties, brow-rumpling geopolitical debates and behind-the-scenes meet-and-greets.

This year, Davos boasts more than 40 heads of state as well as 2,500 other business and society leaders seeking to address topics of economic growth, social inclusion and the future of the internet.

Foreign Aid

David Blair in the Telegraph has a leader entitled “How do you spend £3.7bn in just 8 weeks?

How do you spend £3.7 billion in just eight weeks? In a Government supposedly wracked by austerity, this was the unusual problem faced by officials at the Department for International Development (Dfid) in 2013. All around, their Whitehall colleagues were finding ways of imposing cuts, but in Dfid’s imposing new headquarters off Trafalgar Square, the big worry was how to shovel money out of the door.

This is the central message of the latest report on Dfid from the National Audit Office. The most powerful objection to the Government’s promise to devote 0.7 per cent of national income to overseas aid was that spending money would then become an end in itself. The rational way to run anything – whether a Whitehall department or a fish and chip shop – is to decide what you want to achieve and then spend as little as you can get away with. Once you subordinate everything to hitting a spending target, you turn the rules of rational management on their head.

Islam

The Independent has a leader by Sajjad Rivzi: “Muslims have embraced images of the Prophet Mohamed throughout history — why are so many of them upset now?

After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris last week, much of our discussion has focused on whether anyone has the freedom to depict Mohamed. But this is misguided in my opinion. Back in 2006, many Muslims were angered when a right-wing Danish newspaper published a series of cartoons that portrayed the Prophet Mohamed in a negative light. At the same time, many other Muslims were rather taken by a portrait of Mohamed as a young man that was making the rounds in the markets.

That image was understood to be an old image of Mohamed on one of his early trading journeys up to Syria. It had been sketched by the Christian monk Bahira, the legendary figure of early Islam, who confirmed the prophetic status of the young man. The contrasting responses to these two sets of images suggest that the issue is not whether one represents Muhammad, but how.

Security

The Guardian reports that UK police on highest ever terror alert after Belgian arrests

Police across Britain have been put on high alert and warned that they may be targeted in terror attacks following the foiled assault on officers in Belgium this week by Islamists with links to Syria. The threat against police has been raised to severe, the highest level yet, with police chiefs considering the more widespread deployment of Taser stun guns as an additional security measure.

Police patrols of Jewish communities in Britain are also to be stepped up amid “heightened concern” about the risk of an attack following the Paris atrocity, Britain’s top counter-terror officer said. Extra security measures will be taken at Jewish schools.

NHS

The Mail reveals Labour skulduggery with the NHS: “Labour’s private hospital stitch-up: Shocking evidence of how the Left sabotaged NHS success story

Shocking evidence of how Labour and union figures had the first privately run NHS hospital declared a failure has been uncovered by the Daily Mail. There are growing calls for an inquiry into how Hinchingbrooke in Cambridgeshire was rated ‘inadequate’ by the Care Quality Commission watchdog – only months after winning an award for patient care. But the Mail has learned that:

  • Individuals who helped draw up the CQC’s damning report have close ties to the Labour Party and unions which oppose NHS privatisation.
  • The local NHS body, which suddenly slashed the hospital’s funding and imposed arbitrary fines, is heavily influenced by Labour activists.
  • The watchdog’s lead inspector, Dr Jonathan Fielden, was previously a senior member of the doctors’ trade union, the British Medical Association, and has warned of the dangers of privatisation.
  • A second inspector, Dr Nigel Sturrock, has been associated with the Keep Our NHS Public group.
  • And a doctor employed by the hospital who is suspected of briefing the CQC about its supposed failings happens to be the Labour candidate to be the area’s MP. Dr Nik Johnson is believed to have influenced the report’s severe criticism of children’s services in the A&E unit.

Farage on Friday

Nigel’s regular piece in the Express this week is headed “Why multiculturalism has failed Britain, France and every other country

No one need be reminded so soon of the Paris attacks that left 12 dead last week. And yet the lumps returned to our throats last night as we heard breaking news of terror raids in Verviers in Belgium. Another atrocity avoided, perhaps – but sadly a stark reminder that the enemies of freedom will not stop until we stop them, and tackle the causes at the root of these heinous crimes. I gave a speech in the European Parliament this week which I hope you might watch.

It was, broadly, about the solidarity that we must show with the people of France – but also, I mentioned that the sort of posturing that is often done by political figures in perilous times is not enough — the people of respective European nations want action. And they want action because we’ve seen and heard this all before, and yet we still contribute to the root causes of the problems, and fail to address issues in favour of, say, fighting costly wars abroad.

Liberal Democrats

The Mirror reports that “Nick Clegg could lose his seat to Labour candidate Oliver Coppard

Ed Miliband has taken the election battle to Nick Clegg’s backyard as Labour stepped up its operation to boot out the Lib Dem leader. Ed Miliband insists that Labour could win the Deputy PM’s Sheffield Hallam seat in May’s general election.

Asked if there was “decapitation” strategy to oust Mr Clegg, he replied: “I wouldn’t describe the strategy in the way you have described it but I think it’s a strategy to have as many seats as possible for the Labour party. We want to sit with as many seats as possible including Sheffield Hallam, that’s my view.” Mr Miliband was speaking at a rally at Sheffield Hallam University in Mr Clegg’s consituency.

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