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Issue:- 17 January 2013

Conservative Euro MPs fail to back reforms of credit rating agencies

EURO MPs in the European Parliament, on Wednesday, 16 January 2013, voted on changes to EU law regulating credit rating agencies (CRAs), which are a 1st step towards greater transparency in the financial sector.

Vice Chair of the Economic and Monetary Affairs Committee, Labour Euro MP Arlene McCarthy, who stands for England's North West Region said:- "Credit ratings agencies played a key role in the financial crisis. They rated many unstable global banks as a triple AAA and rated certain "junk" financial instruments as safe products. Today Labour Euro MPs supported new rules that will make credit rating agencies more responsible, more transparent and more democratic. Conservative Euro MPs on the other hand failed to back these stricter rules and opted for business as usual."

On conflicts of interest Arlene added that:- "Despite the clear evidence that the business model of CRAs creates a conflict of interest by encouraging financial issuers to choose the agency they know will give them a good rating, Conservative Euro MPs failed to reforms that are the first step towards truly independent ratings. How can you fairly rate an institution that you are financially connected with?"

On increased competition in the CRA market, Arlene commented that:- "The new rules aim at reducing the dominance of the big three credit rating agencies Standard and Poor's, Moody's Investor Services and Fitch Ratings who account for 95% of the world market, by injecting much needed competition into the market. Conservatives preach the benefits of competition yet today failed to tough action to break the triopoly of the big 3."

Key elements of the new EU regulations include:-

►  Consideration of sovereign debt rating as a specific rating with specific requirements.
►  Inclusion of provisions to avoid conflicts of interest - shareholders cannot be members of both CRAs and owners of the financial instruments being rated.
►  Rotation of CRAs for complex financial products and strict requirements on mergers.
►  Reduction of over-reliance of credit ratings in EU legislation.
►  Better quality and more transparency.
►  Stronger liability for CRAs.

The vote follows an agreement reached between the European Parliament, Council and Commission in late November 2012.

Mayor acts to mitigate impact of Council tax benefit cuts

LIVERPOOL is to significantly reduce the impact of a Government reduction in Council Tax Benefit. From 1 April 2013, the current national scheme of Council Tax benefit is being abolished and a new Council Tax Support Scheme is being transferred to local government. This carries a 10% reduction in funding compared to the current arrangements.

In real terms this means for Liverpool a reduction of around £6.2 million available to support those residents most in need.

It is part of a wider set of welfare reform changes that will directly affect people's lives and the places where they live, as well as impacting on a proportion of people who are in work.

Mayor Joe Anderson is to recommend to Council not to passport on the full impact of these financial reductions.

It means the City Council will accept the government's one off Transition grant of £1.5 million and will match this with £1.7 million to ensure that Liverpool residents do not feel the full force of the cuts.

The 44,700 working age people who were set to be affected will only face an 8.5% reduction, rather than the 17.5% originally proposed. Pensioners are exempt from any cuts.

A typical claimant will be required to pay an additional £1.70 per week, rather than £3.41 under the original proposal.

Mayor Anderson said:- "I have been thinking long and hard about whether or not to accept the Government grant. It is only for one year and does not solve the problem in the long term. We will have to see what Government announces for 2014/15 and of course examine our own financial position. This is as much as we can do given our current financial position. After grappling with this issue for several weeks, I have concluded that it is the right thing to do to take the money in order to offset the impact on the most vulnerable people in the City."

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