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Chinese industrial giant Jingye snaps up British Steel

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Chinese industrial giant Jingye has snapped up British Steel, potentially saving 4,000 jobs, the Insolvency Service has confirmed.  

‘Completion of the contract is conditional on a number of matters, including gaining the necessary regulatory approvals,’ the Insolvency Service said in a statement. 

‘The parties are working together to conclude a sale as soon as reasonably practicable.’

Jingye, founded by 69-year-old Li Ganpo, is set to pay £70million for the business, securing the future of its flagship Scunthorpe plant. 

Sale agreed: But the deal is conditional on a number of matters, including gaining the necessary regulatory approvals

Sale agreed: But the deal is conditional on a number of matters, including gaining the necessary regulatory approvals

Sale agreed: But the deal is conditional on a number of matters, including gaining the necessary regulatory approvals 

Under the deal, Jingye has agreed to buy British Steel’s assets, including the steelworks at Scunthorpe, UK mills and shares of FN Steel BV, British Steel France Rail SAS and TSP Engineering. The sale also includes the shares owned by BSL in Redcar Bulk Terminal Limited.

British Steel will continue to trade ‘as normal’ until the sale is finalised, the Insolvency Service said.  

Jingye pounced after rescue talks with Turkish investor Ataer fell through last month. The Chinese firm has vowed to pour money in and ‘never to sell British Steel to another buyer’.  

Unions had previously welcomed the expected announcement. A spokesman for the Community trade union said at the weekend: ‘If this is confirmed, then we welcome this positive step towards securing British Steel under new ownership.

‘The fact that there has been ongoing interest from both Ataer and now Jingye, rightly demonstrates that potential buyers believe that British Steel can have a sustainable future.

‘Any new owner would not just be acquiring a steel business, they would be taking on a dedicated and skilled workforce, who even through the uncertainty of recent months have been breaking production records to give the business a chance.’ 

Jingye has agreed to buy British Steel's assets, including the steelworks at Scunthorpe

Jingye has agreed to buy British Steel's assets, including the steelworks at Scunthorpe

Jingye has agreed to buy British Steel’s assets, including the steelworks at Scunthorpe

Dr Jonathan Owens, logistics expert from the University of Salford Business School, said: ‘If successful this will secure 4,000 jobs at the Scunthorpe plant and, up to 20,000 with the wider supply chain, bringing a huge relief to thousands of families in the traditional run up to the festive season.

‘It is not perhaps surprising that both the Jingye group and the Turkish pension fund were committed on investment at Scunthorpe, by utilising the high-quality steel that is manufactured at Scunthorpe to complement their existing specialisms and concentrations within the volume market. 

‘Assuming there are no unforeseen problems with purchase, it will be interesting to understand what Jingye’s medium and long term recovery plans are for the plant,’ he continued. 

‘One strategic viewpoint could be to develop capacity for subsidised raw material into the UK market, which may be likely in the long-term not to be subject to high EU tariffs and, it can get enhanced leverage in the UK economy too.’

 

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Parking app offers FREE spaces close to polling stations for general election

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With parts of Britain already being battered by heavy rain and storms this week, concerns have grown that some people will struggle to make it to polling stations to cast their vote in tomorrow’s general election.

However, a dedicated parking app is offering a one-day-only deal to let voters park for free in spaces close to voting destinations across the country for up to half an hour. 

The incentive, provided by firm JustPark, is designed to benefit the elderly and less mobile voters who might find it difficult to battle blustery and wet conditions predicted for Thursday, with temperatures also expected to creep as low as -3C.

Park for free to vote: With weather conditions possibly worsening for tomorrow's general election vote, a parking app is offering free spaces near polling stations on the day

Park for free to vote: With weather conditions possibly worsening for tomorrow's general election vote, a parking app is offering free spaces near polling stations on the day

Park for free to vote: With weather conditions possibly worsening for tomorrow’s general election vote, a parking app is offering free spaces near polling stations on the day

Conditions are looking set to deteriorate on Thursday, causing concerns that the elderly, less mobile and pregnant might struggle to get to polling stations to vote

Conditions are looking set to deteriorate on Thursday, causing concerns that the elderly, less mobile and pregnant might struggle to get to polling stations to vote

Conditions are looking set to deteriorate on Thursday, causing concerns that the elderly, less mobile and pregnant might struggle to get to polling stations to vote

Concerns have intensified this week around the impact of the weather on turnout, with the vote taking place in December for the first time in 96 years.  

A yellow wind warning was issued on Tuesday across much of England and Scotland, with forecasters warning that strong gusts are likely to cause delays on the rail networks and roads for rush-hour commuters.

It was previously thought that Storm Brendan could hit UK shores this week, but experts at the Met Office said the conditions won’t reach levels severe enough to warrant a name.

Heavy winds and rain has been clobbering parts of north England and southern Scotland during the week, and the Met Office has also issued a severe weather warning for ice across parts of Scotland today.  

With the deadline for postal votes passing at the end of November, members of the public now have no choice but to attend polling stations in person to register their verdicts.

The Met Office issued a yellow wind warning across much of England and Scotland this week, with very strong gusts expected - potentially causing transport delays

The Met Office issued a yellow wind warning across much of England and Scotland this week, with very strong gusts expected - potentially causing transport delays

The Met Office issued a yellow wind warning across much of England and Scotland this week, with very strong gusts expected – potentially causing transport delays

To make this easier and more accessible for all, JustPark is giving away 30 minutes of free parking in its spaces around polling locations for one day only.

Users will need to visit the website’s dedicated general election page where they can search for their polling address using their own postcode and then select one of the free-of-charge parking spaces in close proximity.

The spaces are free for just half an hour, which should be more than enough time to get in, tick a box next to the name of your preferred candidate and get out again.

It offer comes after JustPark surveyed 2,005 UK adults and found that three in five (62 per cent) expect the winter weather to limit the number of voters heading to the polls.

The survey, conducted earlier in November, revealed 20 per cent more people are planning to travel by car to place their vote for this election than they would do when it’s held in spring time.

However, with the weather worsening in recent days, that figures is expected to be much greater. 

Enter your postcode on JustPark's dedicated general election page and it will tell you where your local polling station is and the availability of 30-minute free parking spaces close by

Enter your postcode on JustPark's dedicated general election page and it will tell you where your local polling station is and the availability of 30-minute free parking spaces close by

Enter your postcode on JustPark’s dedicated general election page and it will tell you where your local polling station is and the availability of 30-minute free parking spaces close by

All available spaces will waver the charge to park for up to half an hour in an effort to encourage more to get out and cast their votes

All available spaces will waver the charge to park for up to half an hour in an effort to encourage more to get out and cast their votes

All available spaces will waver the charge to park for up to half an hour in an effort to encourage more to get out and cast their votes

Two thirds of the panel already claimed they were concerned about the ability of elderly, disabled or pregnant people getting to polling stations.

That means the need to drive may be higher than before.

When quizzed about the feasibility of hopping in the car for the 2019 general election, a quarter of respondents (26 per cent) said they would be more likely to drive to the polls if parking options were cheaper and more readily available.

Anthony Eskinazi, founder and chief executive of the parking app, said: ‘Whatever your political opinion, we can all agree that boosting voter turnout is important, but it can be a real challenge given the time of year for this election.

‘For 12 years, we have been working to give drivers a readily-available seamless parking experience. We always try to give drivers peace of mind when it comes to finding and reserving spaces on our app, and the upcoming election day should be no different.’

Previous studies have, however, suggested that the weather has little to no impact on the turnout of voters. 

According to Stephen Fisher, a politics researcher at Oxford University, analysis of 15 years of elections up to 2002 showed no obvious correlation between the volume of votes and the weather. 

That said, the period covered in the study didn’t have the same potential for severe transport delays and disruptions that are expected tomorrow.

Other studies also suggest that shorter days have a minimal impact on the volume of votes.

John Curtice from the University of Strathclyde’s cited two post-war elections that took place in February, both of which had high turnouts despite fewer daylight hours.  

Former Home Secretary Alan Johnson, who launched the offering with JustPark, added: ‘I am pleased to be part of a campaign that aims to get more people voting on December 12th. 

‘This will be the first December election for 96 years and for the elderly and infirm in particular, there will be real worries about the cold and dark conditions. 

‘Being able to park, free of charge, close to the polling station will make a significant contribution to voter turnout.’

Will severe weather impact election turnout? 

The prospect of the first winter election since 1974 has led to speculation that conditions could affect turnout, although suggest that the weather has little impact.

A 2007 University of Chicago study found voter turnout decreased by 1 per cent for every extra inch of rain. But research in 2013 from Gothenburg University in Sweden found no link between rain and turnout.

Another study by Oxford University found no connection between weather and how many people voted. Instead, it concluded how close the election race was and how clear the differences were between the parties’ policies was more likely to have an influence.

Polls show the Tory lead over Labour has narrowed to eight points, while Brexit remains the defining issue when voters make their decision in three days’ time.

Speaking before the 2017 General Election, Stephen Fisher, an associate professor of political sociology at Oxford University, said: ‘There’s basically no correlation between the weather and turnout.’

Chris Curtis, political manager at YouGov, said: ‘Most of the evidence shows that weather actually has quite a small effect on turnout and factors such as how close the election is perceived to be and how different the parties’ positions are normally have more of an impact.’

The weather for the February 1974 election was bad but turnout was 79 per cent, compared to 71 per cent for Labour’s ‘landslide’ victory in May 1997 when temperatures were in the mid-20s.

Four years later, turnout was just 59 per cent – attributed to a comfortable Labour win being expected and policies that were not particularly distinct from the Conservatives’.

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Exposed: Boss of the rip-off ‘DVLA’ website DVLA Licence Apply

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The homepage of the DVLA Licence Apply website features a rather amateurish logo depicting two hands clutching a steering wheel.

It then lists its services, which include providing a provisional licence for £91.60 and replacing a lost, stolen or damaged one for £77.60, each next to an inviting blue button that says ‘Apply Now’. 

Given that the same products are available for £34 and £20 respectively from the official DVLA website, it is difficult to know why you would.

Unapologetic: Simon Button is the man behind the rip-off website DVLA Licence Apply that lures consumers into paying over the odds for driving licences

Unapologetic: Simon Button is the man behind the rip-off website DVLA Licence Apply that lures consumers into paying over the odds for driving licences

Unapologetic: Simon Button is the man behind the rip-off website DVLA Licence Apply that lures consumers into paying over the odds for driving licences

Nor is it easy to find out what you actually get for paying more than three times the necessary price, because the website’s telephone line has been down for weeks, if not more, and repeated emails to its customer support team go unanswered.

Last week Money Mail revealed how the company paid to appear at the top of Google searches for terms such as ‘replacement driving licence’ and ‘driving licence apply’ — and above Government websites. 

It meant that people in a rush, including the Mail’s City Editor Alex Brummer, were mistaking the website for the actual DVLA page and paying hefty fees unnecessarily.

Our investigation prompted Google to remove the sponsored ad, with the tech giant saying it breached its rules on selling products or services that are available from the Government at a lower price, unless there was a clear added value.

In the absence of working telephone lines or active customer support, Money Mail has finally tracked down the company’s owner.

To our surprise, we found him not at some dishevelled shack in the corner of an industrial estate, but at a respectable law firm in Norwich city centre.

For Simon Button, the man behind the rip-off website that lures consumers into paying over the odds for driving licences, is in fact a solicitor, specialising in commercial property, as well as director of the International Colleagues School of English, a school in Norwich.

The 47-year-old lives in a three-storey terraced townhouse with a built-in garage on a new estate on the outskirts of Norwich, estimated to be worth around £350,000, and drives an Audi TT sports car.

According to his LinkedIn profile, he was educated at Gresham’s School, a prestigious boarding school in Holt, Norfolk, which charges up to £36,000 per year and counts W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten and Olivia Colman among its alumni. 

He then studied rural resources management at the University of Edinburgh before completing his law qualifications at the University of East Anglia and the College of Law, Birmingham.

I was tricked into paying £58 

Danny Keane ended up paying £57.60 to renew his driving licence when he could have got it for free

Danny Keane ended up paying £57.60 to renew his driving licence when he could have got it for free

Danny Keane ended up paying £57.60 to renew his driving licence when he could have got it for free

When Danny Keane received a letter from the DVLA saying he needed to renew his driving licence before his 70th birthday, he got straight to it. 

He punched into Google the application address stated on the letter and clicked on the first result that came up.

Unfortunately for Danny, he ended up paying £57.60 to renew his licence when he could have got it for free. 

That’s because the top result on Google was the website run by solicitor Simon Button.

Button’s website dvlalicenceapply.co.uk had been paying Google to appear at the top of searches for terms such as ‘replacement driving licence’.

While the website carries a disclaimer saying it is not affiliated to the DVLA, its web address, branding and top billing on Google means people assume it is the official site.

Mr Button’s website charges £57.60 to renew a licence if you’re 70 or over. To do so on the official DVLA website is free.

‘I think it’s disgusting,’ says Danny, 69. ‘Having worked in sales I know when I’m being led up the garden path but you’d have to be a private detective to notice the difference.

‘The things that you have to fill in are identical. I wish I had logged out. It was all over in a matter of seconds.

‘You realise you’ve been totally scammed and feel a right idiot.’

He has been a practising solicitor since 2008 and joined his current firm, Steeles Law, in September 2018. 

That same month he set up Driving Licence Apply Ltd and was its director until November 28 this year when he resigned.

But he still owns Ottaway Holdings Ltd, which remains the majority shareholder in the company.

At around 10am on Monday, Money Mail arrived at the offices of Steeles Law, a stone’s throw away from Norwich Castle. 

After calling in at reception, our reporter was met by Mr Button, who was casually dressed in a grey sweatshirt and green chinos.

The reporter suggested that it would be best to conduct the conversation in private and was led into a meeting room.

When asked whether the processing of driving licence applications at inflated prices through his website was at odds with his role as a solicitor, Mr Button initially sought to distance himself from the business.

‘As you have seen, I am no longer a director of it, but I am the effective owner,’ he said. ‘I guess that is partly the reason why I am getting out of it.’ 

When asked what he meant by ‘getting out’ of the business, he said he had already left as a director and would be relinquishing ownership of the company.

The 47-year-old added: ‘It is partly because you are coming to see me and partly because of what it is and the hassle that it is creating. I am getting out of it.’

But he remained adamant that he would not close it down and would be seeking to sell it or allow someone else to take over.

According to Companies House, the new director is 31-year-old Bashir Ahmed Salvo Maso, who lives in Spain. 

Mr Button declined to be drawn on the pair’s connection or the Spaniard’s role in the business. But he said that DVLA Licence Apply was the first website of its kind he had been involved with.

When asked why he had set it up, he questioned how the article was going to be written and demanded the reporter hand over the pages from his notebook.

The reporter refused to comply.

A spokesman for National Trading Standards says: ‘It’s important for consumers to be vigilant and avoid complacency or rushing when purchasing goods or services online.

‘New ‘copycat’ sites can pop up at any time, which is why it’s so important for people to report any suspicious or ‘copycat’ websites to the authorities.’ 

It is illegal to mimic a Government website, but firms such as Driving Licence Apply Ltd stay on the right side of the law by using similar web addresses while carrying disclaimers stating they are not affiliated to official departments.

Mr Button later said in a statement: ‘There are notices all over the website stating that it is not affiliated to DVLA and in fact this is the first thing you see when you enter the website.

‘There is no intention to deceive anyone, we have tried to be as clear as possible with the notices and put them at every stage, including on the payment page.

‘The aim is to provide a site that is clearer, easier and more convenient to use then the DVLA’s website and my opinion is that we achieve this aim. 

‘We refund anyone that is dissatisfied with the service, or who contacts us saying they thought we were the DVLA, in full every time.’

A spokesman for the International Colleagues School of English says they were not aware of Mr Button’s website but would be investigating the matter further.

Oliver Brabbins, managing director at Steeles Law, says DVLA Licence Apply ‘is not a business undertaken on behalf of or in any way connected with the services provided by Steeles to its clients’.

Mr Brabbins adds that Steeles ‘complies fully and completely with its obligations under the Solicitors Regulatory Authority’, but would not comment on whether the firm had, or intended to, take any action on the matter.

m.dilworth@dailymail.co.uk

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Check you will get balance transfer deal you want before ruining your credit score 

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Asking for too many balance transfer cards can damage your credit rating

Asking for too many balance transfer cards can damage your credit rating

Asking for too many balance transfer cards can damage your credit rating

Customers can now avoid damaging their credit scores unnecessarily by checking if they will get the balance transfer deal they want before applying.

Asking for too many balance transfer cards can damage your credit rating.

Now, credit report company Experian has launched a service that lets people enter their details online, including how much debt they want to transfer. 

They will then be shown cards they can get that best match their needs.

Such deals are often used to reduce interest payments.

Amir Goshtai, Experian Marketplace managing director, says: ‘We are making it more transparent for consumers.’

m.dilworth@dailymail.co.uk

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