BOEPrism

Risk & Regulation Round-up: August 2018 to July 2019

Welcome to the latest Prism-Clarity round-up of key announcements and developments in UK financial risk and regulation.

It won’t have escaped your attention that, far from being a quarterly update, it’s been over a year since my last one. The demands of a corporate contracting role since last November have affected my ability to provide more timely updates. Still, here we are, and will aim to resume doing this update on a more regular basis in future.

As a result of the long gap, my reporting in this note is even more selective and summarised than usual. So I include the usual curated links to underlying source stories or documents for the reader who wants more detail.

And to help readers pick up any stories I don’t cover in detail, I also include selected links to publications and announcements from individual regulators’ websites.

*** Note: The articles in this blog do not constitute advice, but please contact me here for further information, including where to get the best advice. ***

In business or in employment pt 2: updated thoughts on IR35

Two years ago I went off the beaten track and wrote a blog on what is a vexed topic for many freelancers – IR35 – sometimes known as the ‘off-payroll working rules’.

These HMRC rules were introduced in 2000. They’re designed to ensure that contractors are not disguising what in reality amounts to an ’employment’ relationship with their client, to benefit from the tax advantages of operating through a limited company.

Some of my colleagues found the blog useful, thankfully. But as much as anything it was an internal thinkpiece. A way of proving to myself (or even HMRC if they ever came knocking) that I know about the criteria and can argue credibly that I am legitimately outside IR35.

This blog updates that thinking in the light of things that have happened internally in my business, and in the IR35 world itself, since I wrote the original piece.

[As before, please note: this blog does not represent advice. This is a contentious topic. If in any doubt, consult your accountant or a professional HR adviser.]

Image by Jessica Knowlden on Unsplash

“Mainly dry for most”: compulsive hedging language in weather forecasting

One thing is certain about the British weather: its uncertainty.

That uncertainty will only increase over time as the polar ice melts, sea levels rise, the jetstream gets further disrupted, and one-in-a-thousand-year events start to occur annually.

Pity then the intrepid British forecasters whose every word is hung onto nightly by farmers, fishermen, event organisers, sportspeople, families and dog walkers – and insurers.

Coming up with the right scenario from hundreds of computer-modelled scenarios is hard enough in itself. Finding the right language to describe the selected outcome – to deliver with airy reassurance, grim precision or obvious glee – is even harder.

So it’s hardly surprising that forecasters are inclined to be not very definitive in their predictions. The risk to reputation is one thing. More than thirty years on people still chuckle at poor Michael Fish and his quote, inevitably taken out of context, from the afternoon of 15th October 1987.

The economic risk to the farmers and fishermen is another thing. The weather matters meaningfully to many. Livelihoods and even lives are at stake: best to not get it wrong.

Still, couldn’t the forecasters be a bit less – well – vague?

Growing trees in Africa? Local solutions are best

[About the author: Tony Mulvahil is a project manager who enjoys writing. He was a student on the City, University of London Writing for a Business short course in April-July 2019. Tony wrote this blog as part of a homework/in-class exercise on that course.]

Feeling lost amongst the noise of climate disaster stories? These charities focus on making an extraordinary difference to local people.

Your social media feed pops up another horror story of a forest fire consuming a vast tract of pristine forest. Or a monstrous cyclone drowning an entire city. You feel a rising sense of fear and panic combined with despair that nothing you do will solve this man-made climate disaster.

Yet, hidden away from view are many organisations working with local people who are on the battlefront of the climate crisis. The UN Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), not to be confused with the UN Environment organisation, focuses on addressing drought and soil degradation. The UNCCD supplies resources and action plans aiming to halt the loss of productive land.

On their website, the UNCCD provides extracts titled Actions Around the World. These tell the stories of the many small groups of people making a tremendous contribution to their local area. The UNCCD highlights how women are taking an increasingly significant role in setting up groups that tackle climate change by giving them the authority to decide their priorities. Tree Aid establishes enterprise groups in countries such as Burkina Faso and Mali, and this activity helps women improve their lives. Over in Kenya’s Mau Forest, Green Grants supports the Indigenous Information Network enabling local women to reclaim degraded land.

Separately, the Forest Peoples charity supports indigenous forest people to continue living in their traditional homes by working with them to tackle the political challenges these people face.