Today in the pressThursday 22 August 2013 09.28
REVEALED: HOW TROIKA GOT €220m FEES FROM TAXPAYER - The taxpayer has paid more than €220m in fees to the EU and IMF - on top of massive interest payments for our multi-billion euro bailout. The fees - which are for services including administration - are charged when the State draws down a loan, or tranche, under the €67 billion programme. This is on top of the €1.4 billion interest payments made in the last year alone on the bailout, says the Irish Independent. Between 2010 and the end of last year, the State paid about €224m worth of fees - roughly half the amount of money that Social Protection Minister Joan Burton is under pressure to cut from her department in October's Budget. The State's debt-management agency, the National Treasury Management Agency (NTMA), said the fees related principally to administration and service fees on loans drawn down under the EU/IMF programme. Last year, €67.3m was racked up in fees under the funding programme, down from €113.8m in 2011. The reduction reflects the fact that less money was drawn down last year than in the previous year. In 2010 - the year the bailout was agreed between the Fianna Fail/Green Party coalition and the troika of lenders - the figure was €41.2m.
NOONAN TO ADDRESS NTMA PAY ANOMALY - The chief executive of the National Treasury Management Agency, John Corrigan, has intervened to protect the interests of staff at the agency facing cuts in pay, writes the Irish Times. Newly released records show Mr Corrigan wrote to Minister for Finance Michael Noonan at the end of May to indicate his employees would not be able to avail of proposed salary restoration linked to the ratification of the Haddington Road agreement because they are not members of trade unions. Mr Noonan assured Mr Corrigan he would address this. Under recent public sector pay cuts, staff at the NTMA lost their exemption from public pay reductions, while those earning over €185,000 at the NTMA and across the public service are facing cuts of 10%. Under the Haddington Road proposals, those earning over €65,000 will have their pay restored in two phases over an 18-month period. The NTMA employs 13 people earning over €200,000, including Mr Corrigan who receives €416,500. All are facing a 10% cut. Arising from the Labour Relations Commission’s proposals, Mr Corrigan is facing a cut of €41,650. His senior colleague, chief executive of Nama, Brendan McDonagh, is facing a cut of €36,500 on remuneration of €365,500. A further 32 NTMA staff earn €150,001-€200,000 and 105 earn €100,001 -€150,000, and face cuts of 8-10%.
HEDGE FUND MANAGER TOLD TO DIG DEEPER FOR LUXURY LONDON BASEMENT - Kensington council has demanded a fee of more than £800,000 from a hedge fund manager seeking to build a vast subterranean extension underneath two adjacent west London properties, says the Financial Times. Reade Griffith, founder of Polygon Investment Partners, and his wife want to create two underground floors including a swimming pool, spa and “treatment area” below their home. The new basement, at about 900 sq m, is equivalent to eight average-sized new-build family houses, and is a symbol of the trend for London’s most wealthy homeowners to extend downwards. The sheer scale of the extension prompted Kensington & Chelsea council to ask for a one-off fee of £825,000 when it granted planning permission earlier this month, which will go towards affordable housing elsewhere in the borough. Such payments, known as “Section 106 agreements”, are normally confined to large-scale commercial developments or housing estates. Their extension to domestic homes could be seen as a new tax on wealthy homeowners, who already pay 7% stamp duty on home purchases over £2m.
AGA PINS HOPES ON RISING CONSUMER CONFIDENCE - Shoppers are in a better mood and the "tide is turning" in consumer confidence according to Aga Rangemaster, the maker of aspirational cookers, which revealed an uptick in orders this spring. The company said that improved trading in the three months to the end of June had offset a slow start to the year, writes today's Guardian. "The tide is turning, the mood amongst our customers is better and there is a buzz about our new products," said William McGrath, its chief executive. He said Aga cooker orders were up 8% at the half-year stage and the company hoped that new electric versions of its cookers, which are traditionally fuelled by oil, would continue to boost sales. The company's luxury tile brand, Fired Earth, saw sales rise 5% and made an operating profit for the first time since the start of the economic downturn. The fortunes of Aga tend to be closely linked to the housing market as new home buyers tend to update their kitchen equipment. The company said that an increase in the number of housing transactions should help the business through the rest of the year.