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Sexual ‘exploitation’ warning to driving instructors
Driving instructors are being warned that if they have a sexual relationship with a young student it will now be seen as “exploitation”. The Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency (DVSA) says if instructors become sexually involved with 16 and 17-year-old pupils, even if it’s consensual, they could face being punished. In 2016-17 there were 109 investigations into instructor misconduct, which includes inappropriate sexual behaviour. Instructors could be removed from the approved register if they’re found to be “a high risk”.
Tuition fees: Theresa May challenges over-priced universities
The prime minister is to call for better value for students in England, admitting they face “one of the most expensive systems of university tuition in the world”. Theresa May will announce an independent review of fees and student finance on Monday. She will also argue for an end to “outdated attitudes” that favour university over technical education. Labour says it would abolish fees and bring back maintenance grants.
Deadline to return old paper £10 notes fast approaching
At least £2.1bn worth of old £10 notes need to be spent or exchanged before they cease to be legal tender, the Bank of England says. The deadline to spend or exchange old £10 notes – featuring naturalist Charles Darwin – is 1 March. Plastic polymer tenners depicting author Jane Austen entered circulation in September. Currently, weekly returns of paper £10s are averaging at a value of £85m or 8.5 million notes, according to the Bank. To exchange an old tenner, people can either post the notes to the Bank of England, or visit the Bank in person in the City of London. The Bank will exchange all old £10 notes indefinitely.
Nissan sees 2025 as turning point for electric cars
Electric cars will remain more expensive than petrol or diesel cars until the middle of the next decade, one of Nissan’s most senior executives has predicted. Daniele Schillaci, executive vice-president at the Japanese carmaker, said that the prices of battery vehicles and traditional cars will draw level in 2025, ending the need for government subsidies that currently support the majority of electric car sales. “We think that 2025 will be the turning point where the cost of an EV [electric vehicle] car, the same EV and internal combustion engine, will be the same,” he told the Financial Times. “That will be a turning point for the customer.” Nissan, through its global alliance with Renault and Mitsubishi, is the world’s largest electric car producer, selling more than 500,000 since launching the first battery Leaf car in 2010.
Chancellor abandons red box for stripped-back mini-budget
Philip Hammond goes by the nickname “Box Office Phil” in Whitehall — an ironic moniker for a chancellor who prefers to stay out of the limelight — but next month he will exceed even his own arid reputation when he presents March’s mini-Budget. Mr Hammond has ordained that his first Spring Statement should be perhaps the most unmemorable fiscal event ever recorded at Westminster, in a deliberate attempt to keep it out of the headlines. “There will be no red box, no official document, no spending increases, no tax changes,” the Treasury said. “The chancellor will publish updated economic forecasts; we expect the speech to last between 15-20 minutes.” Mr Hammond’s decision to tick the “no publicity” box on March 13 is a conscious effort by the chancellor to end Britain’s recent record of having in effect two Budgets a year — a practice rarely seen in other advanced economies. Officials at the Treasury said the chancellor would probably have chosen not to have a Spring Statement at all, were it not for a legal requirement for the Office for Budget Responsibility to publish two sets of forecasts a year.
National Grid plans electric car power network
National Grid is examining plans to install a fleet of superfast charging points for electric vehicles along Britain’s motorways that would feed directly off the electricity transmission network. The FTSE 100 utility company operates the country’s high-voltage power grid. Superfast chargers could allay fears of electric car owners that they might run out of charge on a motorway, as well as helping to prevent any potential local power shortages. National Grid has mapped Britain’s motorways and transmission networks and identified 50 strategic sites, said Graeme Cooper, project director of electric vehicles at the group. Those locations mean that more than 90 per cent of drivers would be able to drive in any direction from any location in the UK and be within 50 miles of an ultra-rapid charger.
Electric cars rise in value after year’s use amid growing demand
Second-hand electric cars are selling for more than they were bought for because of a rise in demand for green vehicles, according to research. Amid a shortage in the number of eco-friendly vehicles on the market, experts said that drivers could run cars for a year and add thousands of miles to the clock but still sell the vehicle for more than the purchase price. The trend flies in the face of the rest of the car market where uncertainty over new pollution charges in cities combined with increases in vehicle excise duty has hit sales. Recent figures published by the motor industry showed that new car sales dropped by more than 6 per cent last month.
Small businesses demand reform of tax compliance process
Representatives of small companies are demanding tax reform after research revealed that the average business owner spends £5,000 and three working weeks every year on tax compliance. The Federation of Small Businesses said that its members were facing too many hurdles when trying to settle taxes, with almost half complaining that they struggled to determine the tax rates at which they are required to pay. Value Added Tax, Pay As You Earn and Employer National Insurance Contributions were identified as the most time-consuming taxes to handle. The average small business spends 95 hours a year complying with the three collectively, the FSB study found.
German carmakers in a spin ahead of diesel ban ruling
A court will decide on Thursday whether German cities can ban heavily polluting cars, potentially wiping hundreds of millions of euros off the value of diesel cars on the country’s roads. Environmental group DUH has sued Stuttgart in Germany’s carmaking heartland, and Duesseldorf over levels of particulate matter exceeding European Union limits after Volkswagen’s (VOWG_p.DE) 2015 admission to cheating diesel exhaust tests. The scandal led politicians across the world to scrutinize diesel emissions, which contain the matter and nitrogen oxide (NOx) and are known to cause respiratory disease. There are around 15 million diesel vehicles on German streets and environmental groups say levels of particulates exceed the EU threshold in at least 90 German towns and cities.
Government department responsible for the environment has just TWO electric cars in its fleet of 4,000
The Government department responsible for the environment has just two electric cars in its fleet of 4,000 – mainly diesel – vehicles. Figures also last night revealed that the majority of cars used by Government ministers are also diesels. Despite urging councils to crack down on diesel drivers, 98 per cent of Michael Gove’s department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs are diesel. Following a parliamentary question from a senior MP, Defra also admitted having only nine ultra-low emission vehicles – or plug in hybrids – to ferry officials around. The huge fleet of cars is predominantly used by government backed bodies including the Environment Agency, Natural England, and the Forestry Commission, all of which are overseen by DEFRA. In total the Defra group, including these arm’s length government bodies, has around 22,000 staff.